The shingles vaccine shot can roughly cut in half your chances of getting shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
If you’ve already had shingles, the vaccine may help stop it from coming back.
The vaccine contains a weakened chickenpox virus, which doctors call the varicella-zoster virus. It primes your immune system to defend against the disease.
Some people who get the vaccine still get shingles. But they're more likely to have shorter periods of shingles-related nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is very painful and can last weeks, months, or even years after the rash goes away.
Who Should Get the Vaccine?
It’s approved for people as young as 50. The CDC recommends it for everyone 60 and older who doesn’t have a medical reason to skip it.
Shingles is most common in people 50 or older, those who have medical conditions that keep the immune system from working properly, or people who take medicines that suppress the immune system.
If you’ve had shingles, there’s no required amount of time you have to let pass between having shingles and getting the vaccine. But in general, it’s best to wait until the shingles rash clears up.
Who Should Not Get It?
You shouldn’t get the shingles vaccine if:
- You have a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or certain types of prescription drugs.
- You're getting cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy.
- You've had cancer in your bone marrow or lymph system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
- You have untreated, active tuberculosis.
- You're allergic to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other ingredient of the shingles vaccine.
- You’re pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least 3 months after getting the shingles vaccine.
If you have a minor illness like a cold, it's OK to get the vaccine. But if you're moderately or severely sick, it's best to wait until you recover to get vaccinated.
Do I Still Need It if I’ve Had Chickenpox in the Past?
Yes. The virus stays inactive in your body long after you’ve had chickenpox and can flare up as shingles.