Overview

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

If you're eligible, you can get the shingles vaccine at any time during the year. At your next appointment with a healthcare professional ask them if it's possible to get the shingles vaccine.

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.

Who's eligible for the vaccine?

People aged between 70 and 79 on 1 September 2021 are eligible for the free shingles vaccine.

When will I be immunised?

If you're eligible, you can get the vaccine at any time of year. The next time you’re speaking to a healthcare professional ask them about getting the shingles vaccine.

The vaccine

The shingles vaccine is given as one dose. 

If you have a severely weakened immune system you will be given a second dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine helps to protect against shingles, which is caused by a virus called varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

What vaccine is used?

The Zostavax vaccine is routinely used in Scotland.

The Shingrix vaccine is used for those who are severely immunosuppressed.

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, the symptoms will be milder and won't last as long as they would have if you hadn't been immunised.

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.

Are there any reasons why I shouldn't have the 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.

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.

Non-urgent advice: Reschedule your shingles vaccine appointment if:

  • you're showing symptoms of coronavirus before your vaccination. 

More about the symptoms of coronavirus

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.

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. One in 10 people get symptoms, including headaches, muscle aches and pains, and fatigue. Some people experience redness or tenderness where the injection was given.

Non-urgent advice: Speak to your GP or practice nurse 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, 9.00am to 5.00 pm)

Further information

If you have any questions about the shingles vaccine you can ask the healthcare professional when booking the vaccine, or at the appointment. You could also make an appointment with your GP or a member of your care team.

More about shingles

Immunisation leaflet

Public Health Scotland have produced a shingles vaccine leaflet explaining the shingles vaccine in Scotland, why it's offered and when it's given.

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

Also on NHS inform

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