Vaccines for Shingles

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Jamie Mackelfresh, MD: Currently, the CDC recommends that adults over age 50, in particular, are the core people who should think about getting the shingles vaccine.

There are two different vaccines currently available for shingles. They are both given via an injection into the skin, much like a flu shot would be given.

And it is given in one dose, so you just get one injection, one time. And it contains a little bit of the virus itself, and that causes your body to respond to the virus in a way that provides you protection later.

We think that that vaccine will
last for several years
4 or 5, maybe a little bit longer. But because it may not last as long as we initially thought, the CDC recommends that vaccine specifically for only age 60 and older.

The second vaccine is a little bit different. It's given also as an injection, but you need two doses: So, the first dose, and then a second dose 2 to 6 months later. This vaccine is a dead version of the virus, and it contains something extra in there to kind of boost the response.

Currently, it is the recommended vaccine and is also recommended a little younger -- age 50 and older. And we are hoping, although we don't know yet, that it may last longer as well, in terms of its effect.

Shingles vaccines overall are very safe. But any vaccine can have some side effects: Your arm could be sore. There could be some redness around where the injection took place. And those are the most common things.

A few people will have a little bit of feeling of achiness or a headache, but that, too, is usually mild and also goes away within 2 to 5 days, typically.