Disease & Vaccine Information

Please select disease or vaccine
Ask 8 Information Kiosk

Explore FREE downloadable educational materials.

Connect with us!

Report Your Vaccine Experiences

Read and report vaccine reactions, harassment and failures. 

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) & Shingles vaccine quick facts



  • Herpes zoster (shingles) is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster (chicken pox) virus.  Shingles involves inflammation of the nerves and a very painful blistering skin rash that typically lasts two to four weeks.  Herpes zoster is not caused by Herpes simplex Types 1 and 2 associated with cold sores and sexually transmitted genital herpes. 
  • Symptoms of shingles include pain, itching or tingling of areas of the skin, usually on the trunk of the body, along with fever, headache, chills and an upset stomach.  Complications of shingles include post-herpatic neuralgia (chronic nerve pain), loss of vision, hearing problems, brain inflammation (encephalitis), Bell’s Palsy, pneumonia and, rarely, death; 
  • Individuals suffering with shingles cannot transmit shingles to others. However, someone who has not already recovered from chickenpox disease can get chickenpox from a person with shingles. This is believed to be from direct contact with the shingles lesions. 
  • Herpes zoster is most common in individuals over 50 years of age , however, individuals who are immunocompromised or who take medications that suppress the immune system are at higher risk. 
  • Treatment with antivirals may shorten the time it takes to recover from shingles.  Over the counter or prescription pain medication may help to relieve pain and calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal baths, and wet compresses may assist with itching. 

Shingles Vaccine

  • There are two vaccines licensed in the U.S.: Zostavax, a live virus vaccine, licensed in 2006 and manufactured by Merck  and SHINGRIX, a genetically engineered recombinant, adjuvanted vaccine, licensed in 2017 and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.  Zostavax was discontinued in the U.S. in November 2020.  Shingles vaccination is currently recommended for all persons age 50 and older and for individuals 19 years and older who are immunocompromised. 
  • Reported complications from SHINGRIX vaccine include swelling, pain and redness at the injection site, headache, muscle pain, shivering, fatigue, gout (including gouty arthritis), optic ischemic neuropathy and Guillain-Barré syndrome.  Reported complications from Zostavax vaccine include local swelling, pain and redness at injection site; zoster-like skin rash, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, abnormally swollen glands, and hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis (shock). 
  • Zostavax vaccine effectiveness is reported to be about 51 percent  while SHINGRIX is reported to be over 90 percent effective.  There is no available test to determine immunity to shingles and long-term vaccine effectiveness is unknown. 
  • Zostavax vaccine contains live attenuated varicella zoster virus and vaccine strain virus transmission of chickenpox from the vaccinated to susceptible individuals has been reported.  Mass use of chickenpox vaccine by children in the U.S. since 1995 has limited natural boosting of Varicella Zoster immunity in the adult population and there has been a significant increase in cases of Herpes zoster among adults.   
  • Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of May 31, 2024, there have been 123,469 reports of shingles vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following shingles vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 492 related deaths, 5,187 hospitalizations, and 2,851 related disabilities.

Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Search for Vaccine Reactions

NVIC is proud to host MedAlerts, a powerful VAERS database search engine. MedAlerts examines symptoms, reactions, vaccines, dates, places, and more.

Reporting a Vaccine Reaction

Since 1982, the NVIC has operated a Vaccine Reaction Registry, which has served as a watchdog on VAERS. Reporting vaccine reactions to VAERS is the law. If your doctor will not report a reaction, you have the right to report a suspected vaccine reaction to VAERS.

Vaccine Reaction Symptoms & Ingredients

Our Ask 8, If You Vaccinate webpage contains vaccine reaction symptoms and more. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Shingles and the Shingles vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

Opens in new tab, window
Opens an external site
Opens an external site in new tab, window