Shingrix® vaccine

Key points about Shingrix

  • The Shingrix vaccine protects against shingles infection.
  • You need 2 doses, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first.
  • Find out about it and possible side effects.
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Shingrix is a vaccine that can prevent you from getting shingles and, if you do get shingles, this vaccine can prevent you from complications of shingles including long-term pain. 

  • Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles later in life. 1 in 3 people will get shingles during their lifetime.
  • Shingles can be very painful and your risk of getting it increases as you age.
  • The most serious complications are nerve pain that can last for months or years, and eye problems that can result in loss of vision.
  • Read more about shingles.

In Aotearoa New Zealand shingles vaccination is free for 12 months once you turn 65. As long as you receive your first dose when you are 65, your second dose will still be free, even if you get it after you turn 66.

Shingrix vaccine is recommended, but not funded for:

  • anyone from 50 years of age
  • individuals from 18 years of age with health conditions that increase their risk of shingles, including those who have weakened immune systems.

Shingrix is given as an intramuscular injection (injected into the muscle on your upper arm). It is given as 2 doses, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first.

Shingrix should not be given to anyone who:

  • has had a severe allergy (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of this vaccine, or a component of the vaccine
  • currently has shingles.

People with minor illnesses, eg, a cold, can be vaccinated but if you have a fever over 38°C you should wait. Your health care provider can advise you on when to have it.

If you have a bleeding disorder, eg, haemophilia or thrombocytopenia, intramuscular injections must be given cautiously, so check with your doctor if you are in this group.

You can get the shingles vaccination from your family doctor, some medical centres or some pharmacies.

  • If you are eligible for a free vaccination, you must get it from your family doctor.
  • If you are not enrolled with a doctor, some medical centres offer casual doctor and nurse appointments at a cost for unenrolled patients. There will not be a cost for the shingles vaccine if you are eligible for a free vaccination, but there may be an administration fee.
  • Pharmacists may administer Shingrix if they are trained as a vaccinator, and a prescription is not needed. Pharmacies are not funded to provide free shingles vaccinations.  
  • If you're not eligible to get a free vaccination, you will need to pay – whether you visit your family doctor or a pharmacy.

Remember, you need 2 doses of the Shingrix vaccine, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first. You may wish to schedule your appointment for the second dose after receiving the first, and place a reminder in your calendar.

Zostavax is the old brand of shingles vaccine and it was a single dose. Zostavax is no longer available.

If you have had Zostavax, or have had shingles recently, your immunity to shingles has been boosted. This reduces the chances of you getting it in the near future, so it is recommended that you wait at least a year before getting the Shingrix vaccine. 

Some people with weakened immune systems, and who are risk of getting shingles, can get Shingrix sooner – from 3 months after a Zostavax vaccination or after having had shingles.

Shingrix® is not a live vaccine so it can't cause shingles.

  • To provide good protection against shingles, you need 2 doses of Shingrix, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first.
  • Having a single dose does protect you, but not adequately. About 10 out of every 1,000 people get shingles, this drops to less than 5 out of every 1,000 after 1 dose of Shingrix® and drops to less than 3 out of every 1,000 after 2 doses.)

Note: There is evidence that the incidence of shingles (herpes zoster) is increasing in Aotearoa New Zealand and also that COVID-19 infection increases the risk.

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Headache
  • Feeling unwell, tired or weak
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever 
  • Shivering
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting) 
  • Runny poo (diarrhoea/hamuti) 
  • These are quite common after receiving the vaccine.
  • They usually settle within a few days.
  • Rest and drink plenty of liquids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended after vaccinations, but may be used for severe discomfort.  
  • Tell your doctor if these side effects bother you.
  • Pain and redness at the injection site
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after getting the injection and settles within a few days.
  • Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time. 
  • Don't rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if it is a problem.

Read more about what happens after your immunisation.(external link)

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as skin rash, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of the face, lips or mouth, or problems breathing
  • Allergic reaction to the vaccine is rare.
  • If you develops these signs within a few hours or days of the vaccination, call an ambulance or immediately go to the nearest hospital and tell them you have had a Shingrix vaccination.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product.(external link)

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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