Protect Yourself with Shingles (Zoster) Vaccine!

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body in a dormant state. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, usually starts as a blistery rash on one side of the face or body that usually clears within 2 to 4 weeks. Before the rash develops, there is often pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach. Very rarely, shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death. For about 1 person in 5, severe pain can continue even after the rash clears up. This pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia. As people get older, they are more likely to develop post-herpetic neuralgia, and it is more likely to be severe, therefore shingles vaccine (also known as zoster vaccine) is recommended for everyone ages 60 and older.

Almost one out of three people in America will develop shingles during their lifetime. Last year, nearly 1 million Americans experienced the condition. The risk of getting shingles increases as a person gets older, most commonly occurring after age 50. People who have medical conditions that keep the immune system from working properly, like cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or people who receive drugs that weaken their immune system such as steroids and drugs given after organ transplantation are also at greater risk to get shingles.

Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, a person with active shingles can transmit the virus that causes shingles, VZV, to a person who has never had chickenpox “ but only through direct contact with the shingles rash. If a person who has never had chickenpox is infected with VZV, he or she will develop chickenpox, not shingles.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Getting Shingles?
The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain that can follow shingles is to get the Shingles Vaccine, called Zostavax®. One dose of Shingles vaccine is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to reduce the risk of shingles and its associated pain in people 60 years old or older. Because it is a live virus vaccine, some people in this age group should wait to get vaccinated, or should not get vaccinated at all, if they have certain medical conditions, particularly if they have a weakened immune system from disease or medications.

The most common side effects in people who receive the shingles vaccine have been reported to be redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. Research suggests that the shingles vaccine is effective for at least seven years, but may last much longer. Ongoing studies are being conducted to determine exactly how long the protection of shingles vaccine lasts.

Most of the above information was taken from:
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For more specific information, refer to the Shingles Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) found at .

SHOTS, etc. offers a Patient Assistance Program for individuals who have no insurance and who meet financial guidelines. Certain vaccines may be obtained for a nominal injection fee. Visit  for details.