QUESTION: I’ve heard there is a new shingles vaccine available called Shingrix®, but I already received a different one. Do I need both?

ANSWER: Yes! Shingrix® was found to be more effective than the previous vaccine called Zostavax®, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recommends that even those previously vaccinated with Zostavax® still receive Shingrix®.

What is the Shingrix® vaccine?

Shingrix® is a new vaccine that was approved in 2017 to prevent shingles. The vaccine is NOT made from a live virus or a weakened virus. Since this vaccine does not contain the actual virus, it is okay for those even with a weakened immune system. It is given as two doses between 2 and 6 months apart.

Who is recommended to receive Shingrix®?

You are recommended to receive Shingrix® if you are 50 years and older unless you have a severely weakened immune system or have had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. This is because shingles is more common in ages 50 and up. Shingrix® is also recommended for those with conditions such as chronic renal failure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lung diseases because these conditions also put you at risk for getting shingles. If you currently have a weakened immune system from an infection or you are on steroid therapy, transplant medications, or chemotherapy, please discuss with your doctor whether you should be getting the shingles vaccine and the best timing for the shingles vaccine. When a medication or condition is significantly reducing your immune system, your doctor may have you wait until your immune system improves. Having a history of a weakened immune system is NOT a contraindication to getting the vaccine.

What is the difference between Shingrix® and Zostavax®  

An older vaccine, Zostavax®, came out in 2006 and was previously the best that was available for preventing shingles. However, Zostavax® was found to be about 50% effective whereas Shingrix® was found to be more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and its complications. Although it is still possible to get shingles after you receive a vaccine, you’re more likely to have a milder illness than someone who was not vaccinated.

Since Shingrix® is much more effective than Zostavax®, it is recommended that you get Shingrix® even if you were vaccinated with Zostavax® in the past. If you were recently vaccinated with Zostavax®, you should wait at least 8 weeks before getting Shingrix®. If you’ve never received a shingles shot, then it is recommended to only receive Shingrix®. It is best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist regarding the best time to get Shingrix®.

Possible side effects of Shingrix®

Every person is different in terms of how they react to vaccines. Temporary side effects are possible as the vaccine helps your body create a strong defense against shingles. Possible side effects after receiving Shingrix® include: pain, redness, or swelling at the site of injection, headache, muscle aches, shivering, or tiredness. If you experience any side effects, they should go away in about 2 to 3 days.

What you should know about shingles

Shingles is a painful rash, often seen with blisters, caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus can stay quiet in your body for many, many years and becomes active later in life or in those with a weakened immune system. Even those who have never had chickenpox can get shingles from someone who is infected. This means anyone can potentially get shingles at some point in their life! Shingles can lead to complications including pneumonia infections, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation, or even death. One out of five persons who have had shingles are left with severe pain that continues long after the rash is gone known as postherpetic neuralgia. The CDC is a great place for information on shingles and other vaccine-preventable illnesses.


If you have any questions regarding vaccines please call our Polyclinic location at 206-324-6990 or stop by!

Feel free to explore our other Ask the Pharmacist posts to learn about other vaccine-preventable illnesses: