Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccine

Vaccine Information Leaflet

​What is the Shingles Vaccine Used For?

Shingles vaccines help prevent shingles caused by the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). VZV is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It stays dormant in your body and can cause shingles later in life. Though shingles cannot spread directly from one person to another, the VZV can spread and cause chickenpox in those who never had chickenpox or had never received the chickenpox vaccine .Transmission of the VZV is through direct contact with fluid from the shingles rash blisters.People with shingles cannot spread the VZV before their rash blisters appear or after the rash has crusted.

The first symptom of shingles is usually pain, which can be intense with even a slightest touch. Other symptoms of shingles include rash, fluid filled blisters, fever, headache, chills, or stomach upset. 

A common complication of shingles, especially in older adults is a nerve pain, called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which can be severe and long-lasting, even after the rash has cleared. Other rare complications include lung infection (pneumonia), brain inflammation (encephalitis), hearing loss or blindness.

What Are the Types of Shingles Vaccine Available?

There are two types of vaccines available:
  1. Recombinant Shingles Vaccine
  2. Live Shingles Vaccine 
The recombinant shingles vaccine does not contain the live VZV, but contains the shingles “code” for the body to recognise and obtain immunity from. The live shingles vaccine contains the weakened VZV. 

Who Should Receive the Shingles Vaccine?

It is recommended in older adults, such as those 50 years of age or older who would benefit from immunity to shingles. Please check with your doctor for more information.

What Precautions Should I Follow Before Receiving the Shingles Vaccine?

Inform your healthcare professional if:
  • You are allergic to this vaccine or any of the other ingredients of this vaccine including neomycin antibiotic
  • You are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
  • You are taking any other medications
  • You had a serious reaction (e.g.anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction) to the previous dose of the vaccine
  • You are currently not feeling well and having a fever
For Recombinant Shingles Vaccine
  • You have a history of bleeding disorders
For Live Shingles Vaccine
  • You have a weak immune system due to an illness such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection or cancer
  • You are currently on medications which weaken your immune system (e.g. high dose steroids)

How Is the Shingles Vaccine Given?

The recombinant shingles vaccine is given by injection into a muscle, as a series of two doses. The live shingles vaccine is given by injection just underneath the skin, as a single dose.

What Are Some Common Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine?

  • Some people may feel faint after the vaccination
    • Sit for 15 minutes to avoid fainting 
  • Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site 
    • You may place a cold compress over the affected area for relief
    • You may take paracetamol for pain relief 
  • Headache, muscle aches, fatigue
    • These side effects usually go away on its own 
    • You may take paracetamol to treat the headache or muscle aches
 Please see a doctor if these side effects do not get better or become worse.

What Are Some Rare But Serious Side Effects That I Need to Seek Medical Advice Immediately?

The symptoms of a drug allergy include one or more of the following: 
  • Swollen face/eyes/lips/tongue
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Itchy skin rashes over your whole body
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should inform your healthcare professional immediately.

The information provided on this page does not replace information from your healthcare professional. Please consult your healthcare professional for more information.

This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

Last updated on May 2021

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