The shingles vaccine helps reduce your risk of developing shingles. If you do get shingles, it can reduce how serious the symptoms will be.

What's shingles?

Shingles is caused by a virus called varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. When you recover from chickenpox most of this virus is destroyed, but some survives and lies inactive in your body’s nervous system.

The virus can then become active again later in life, when your immune system has been weakened by age, stress, illness or certain treatments that can reduce your immunity. The shingles vaccine helps to protect you by boosting your immunity.

More about the symptoms of shingles

Andy's story: The symptoms of shingles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVsDU8JbDgQ)

Andy talks about his experience of having shingles.

Why should I be vaccinated?

The vaccine helps to protect against shingles.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

People aged between 70 and 79 on 1 September 2022 are eligible for the free shingles vaccine.

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've never had chickenpox?

Yes. The chances are that you may have had chickenpox at some point without knowing it. Some people have chickenpox without displaying any of the typical chickenpox symptoms.

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've had shingles before?

Yes. Even if you've already had shingles, you could still get it again. The vaccine will reduce your risk of getting shingles again.

How do I get my shingles vaccination?

You do not need to arrange your appointment. You’ll be contacted by your local health board when you’re eligible to be immunised.  They’ll tell you:

  • the date and time of your appointment
  • where your appointment will be

They’ll contact you by sending an invitation to your home address. This is the address that is registered with your GP.

You can be invited for the vaccine at any time of the year.

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the shingles vaccine, contact:

Further information and other languages and formats

More information on the shingles vaccine can be found in this leaflet, available in multiple languages and formats.

For alternative formats, please contact phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

English (Easy Read)
English (Large Print)
Simplified Chinese (Mandarin)
Traditional Chinese (Cantonese)

The vaccine

What vaccine is used?

The Zostavax vaccine is routinely used in Scotland.

This shingles vaccine contains a weakened form of the virus that causes shingles. Because its weakened, it does not cause the illness. It helps to build up your immunity to the virus, so your body will fight it off more easily if it affects you again.

If you are immunosuppressed

If you have a severely weakened immune system, you may be offered the Shingrix vaccine. This vaccine is not live. Your health professional will be able to advise on which vaccine is right for you.

How effective is the vaccine?

The vaccine will reduce your chances of developing shingles by more than a third. If you do go on to have shingles, having the vaccine can make the symptoms milder.

Can the shingles vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines?

Speak to a healthcare professional about getting other vaccines at the same time so they can advise what's best for your individual circumstances.

You should ideally wait seven days between the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination and shingles vaccination.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The shingles vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the MHRA.

Are there any reasons I shouldn't have the shingles vaccine?

You shouldn't have the shingles vaccine if:

  • you've had a severe reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine
  • you've had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the chickenpox vaccine
Does the shingles vaccine contain pork (porcine) gelatine?

If you don't have a severely weakened immune system, the shingles vaccine you'll be offered contains a small trace of pork gelatine.

Gelatine is a common and essential ingredient in many medicines, including some vaccines.

Many faith groups, including Muslim and Jewish communities, have approved the use of gelatine-containing vaccines. It is, however, an individual choice whether or not to receive the shingles vaccine.

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Side effects

Side effects are usually quite mild and don’t last very long.

The most common side effects are:

  • redness, itching, pain, swelling, bruising, a rash, warmth and hardness around the injection site
  • muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • pain in the arm or leg

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP practice if:

  • you have side effects that last for more than a few days
Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Last updated:
01 June 2023

Other languages and formats

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