There are two vaccines, Shingrix® and Zostavax® II, that protect against shingles. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. 

Both vaccines are approved for adults age 50 and older for the prevention of shingles and related complications, whether they've already had shingles or not.

Shingrix®  vaccine

  • Studies suggest protection against shingles with Shingrix may extend beyond five years.  This includes those who have had shingles disease or received Zostavax® II in the past and those who are not sure if they had chickenpox (varicella) infection in the past. 

  •  Shingrix has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (a type of severe pain that lasts months to years after shingles) by more than 90%.

  • You may get the Shingrix vaccine even if you've already had shingles. Also, consider getting the Shingrix vaccine if you've had the Zostavax vaccine or if you don't know whether you've had chickenpox.

  • You should wait at least 1 year before getting Shingrix® if you have had shingles disease or received Zostavax® II.

  • Shingrix is given as two doses, at least two to six months apart. 

  • The vaccine is not provided for free in B.C. It costs about $150/dose and can be purchased at some pharmacies and travel clinics Call ahead to ask about vaccine availability.  Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the vaccine; check with your insurance provider. If you are covered by First Nations Health Benefits, please go here.

Zostavax® vaccine

  • Zostavax has been shown to offer protection against shingles for about five years. 

  • Zostavax is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm. Shingrix is a nonliving vaccine made of a virus component. It's given in two doses, with two to six months between doses.

  •  Zostavax may be given to adults 50 years of age and older who cannot get Shingrix® due to a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of Shingrix® vaccine or any part of the vaccine, or due to the Shingrix® vaccine being unavailable.

  • Zostavax has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by 50%.

  • Zostavax is given as 1 dose and costs about $200. Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the vaccine; check with your provider.

Possible side effects

The shingles vaccines are very safe. Common side effects to the vaccines include headache as well as soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Itching and a rash may also occur after getting Zostavax® II. Other reactions that may occur after getting Shingrix® include fever, muscle soreness, fatigue, shivering, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare possibility, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. 

Although some people will develop shingles despite vaccination, the vaccine may reduce the severity and duration of it.

Talk to your doctor about vaccination if you:

  • Have ever had an allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine

  • Have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system

  • Are receiving immune system-suppressing drugs or treatments, such as steroids, adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), radiation or chemotherapy

  • Have cancer that affects the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma

  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

You should not get the vaccine if you currently have shingles disease.

  • If you have a weakened immune system, you should discuss getting the vaccine with your health care provider.

  • The vaccine is given as two doses, at least two to six months apart. 

Page Last Updated: 11/02/2021