Herpes zoster is a viral infection of the nerves and skin. It is also known as shingles. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus lies inactive in the body after a person recovers from chickenpox. It can reactivate later in life as shingles. It is not known why this happens.
The virus that causes shingles can be spread to people who have not had chickenpox. These people would get chickenpox, not shingles.
A person may have skin pain, itching, and tingling before these symptoms occur:
Most people get better in about a month. Older adults may have lasting nerve pain.
This vaccine is made of inactivated varicella zoster virus. It is given as a shot under the skin in 2 doses that are 2 to 6 months apart.
The vaccine is given to people who are 50 years of age and older.
Common problems are:
You should not get the vaccine if you:
You cannot get shingles if you have never had chickenpox. However, you may get a severe case of chickenpox.
During a shingles outbreak, varicella zoster virus can be spread to people who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. People who have not had chickenpox should get the chickenpox vaccine.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
American Academy of Dermatology
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/herpes-zoster. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Recombinant zoster (shingles) vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/shingles-recombinant.pdf. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Zoster vaccine recombinant, adjuvanted. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-monograph/zoster-vaccine-recombinant-adjuvanted. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 7/8/2021