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Shingles Disease & Vaccine Information

Find the Information You Need to Make an Informed Vaccine Decision


Shingles: The Disease

Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is an inflammation of nerves and the surrounding area of skin caused by Varicella Zoster (chickenpox) virus infection.1 Shingles usually occurs when the dormant Varicella Zoster virus is reactivated in an adult, who has recovered from chickenpox as a child.2 Shingles most commonly occurs in individuals over 50 years of age.3 Today, after chickenpox vaccine has been widely used by children since 1995 and has interrupted natural circulation of the varicella zoster virus in the U.S. population,4 experts believe that half of Americans reaching 85 years of age will experience shingles at some point in their lifetime.5  Learn more about shingles…

Shingles Vaccine

There are two shingles vaccines licensed for use in the U.S.; Zostavax live attenuated vaccine by Merck and Shingrix a genetically engineered and adjuvanted recombinant vaccine by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.

Zostavax live attenuated shingles vaccine, licensed in 2006, is a much more potent version of Varivax chickenpox vaccine containing 19,500 plaque forming units of Oka/Merck varicella zoster virus versus 1,350 plaque forming units in the chickenpox vaccine.6 According to the CDC, Zostavax vaccine reduced shingles by about half (51%) in adults 60 years and older.7

Shingrix adjuvanted recombinant vaccine, licensed in 2017, is a two dose series vaccine administered intramuscularly (injected into muscle) and is a genetically engineered vaccine. Shingrix is reported to be over 90 percent effective,8 but no test is available to determine immunity to shingles and long-term vaccine effectiveness is unknown;9 Learn more about shingles vaccine…

Shingles Quick Facts


  • Herpes zoster (shingles) is a viral infection caused by the Varicella Zoster (chicken pox) virus.10 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.11
  • 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;12 Continue reading quick facts…

Shingles Vaccine

  • There are two vaccines licensed in the U.S.: Zostavax, a live virus vaccine, licensed in 2006 and manufactured by Merck13 14 and SHINGRIX, a genetically engineered15  recombinant, adjuvanted vaccine, licensed in 2017 and manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.16 Both vaccines are approved for use in the U.S. by healthy adults over 50 years and SHINGRIX was given preference by the ACIP in 2017;
  • Using the MedAlerts search engine, as of May 31, 2019 there have been 61,217 reports of shingles vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following shingles vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 179 related deaths, 2,141 hospitalizations, and 1,157 related disabilities. Continue reading quick facts…

« Return to Vaccines & Diseases Table of Contents


1 Mayo Clinic. Shingles. Mar. 9, 2018

2 NIH. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Shingles: Hope Through Research – What is Shingles? Modified Mar. 23, 2018

3 Medical News Today. What is Shingles? Nov. 29, 2017

4 Goldman, G.S., King, P.G. Review of the United States universal varicella vaccination program: Herpes zoster incidence rates, cost-effectiveness, and vaccine efficacy based primarily on the Antelope Valley Varicella Active Surveillance Project data. Vaccine, 2013 Mar 25; 31(13): 1680–1694.

5 CDC. CDC Recommends Shingles Vaccine. May 15, 2008

6 Fisher, B.L., The Emerging Risks of Live Virus & Virus Vectored Vaccines. NVIC.org. 2014.

7 CDC Vaccines and Preventable Diseases – What Everyone Should Know about Zostavax. Revised Jan. 25, 2018

8 CDC. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases – Vaccines by Disease – Shingles – Shingles Vaccination. Revised Feb. 28, 2018

9 CDC. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. MMWR Jan 26, 2018; 67(3);103–108

10 CDC. Shingles (Herpes Zoster) – Shingles Home - For Health Care Professionals – Clinical Overview. Revised Feb. 21, 2018

11 CDC. Shingles (Herpes Zoster) – Shingles Home – About Shingles - Transmission. Revised Jan. 19, 2018

12 Ibid

13 FDA. Zostavax (Frozen). Product Information Sheet. Mar. 21, 2018

14 FDA. Zostavax (Refrigerator Stable). Product Information Sheet. Mar. 21, 2018

15 NIH. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Research – NIAID’s Role in Research – Vaccines – Types of Vaccines. Apr. 3, 2012

16 FDA. SHINGRIX. Product Information Sheet. Oct. 20, 2017

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