Vaccinations
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Shingles vaccine FAQs

What is shingles?

How do you catch shingles?

Is shingles serious?

How common is shingles?

How is the shingles vaccine given?

Who will be able to have the shingles vaccination?

How do I get the shingles vaccination?

Do you need to have the shingles vaccination every year?

Will there be any side effects from the shingles vaccination?

What about people who aren't yet 70? Will they get the shingles vaccination?

Why can't I have the shingles vaccination if I'm 80 or over?

Which people shouldn't have the shingles vaccine?

Will the shingles vaccine stop me getting shingles?

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've never had chickenpox?

Should I have the shingles vaccine if I've already had shingles?

Can I get the shingles vaccine privately?

What is shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus).

Read more about shingles symptoms.

How do you catch shingles?

You don't "catch" shingles – it comes on when there's a reactivation of chickenpox virus that's already in your body. After you've recovered from chickenpox the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in your nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when your immune system is weakened. Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles.

Read more about the causes of shingles.

Is shingles serious?

Yes, it can be.

Not only can shingles be very painful and uncomfortable, some people are left with long-lasting pain called post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) for years after the initial rash has healed.

Very occasionally, shingles can be fatal.

How common is shingles?

It's estimated that around one in five people who have had chickenpox (usually in childhood) go on to develop shingles. That means that tens of thousands of people in England and Wales will get shingles each year.

How is the shingles vaccine given?

It's given as an injection into the upper arm.

Who will be able to have the shingles vaccination?

It is available to all those whose age on 1st September was 70-75 or 77-79 (up until their 80th birthday).

From 1st April 2018, anyone born between 02/09/42 and 01/09/48, or between 02/09/38 and 01/09/41 is eligible for a shingles vaccine. Those who are within the eligible age groups may receive their vaccine up until the day before their 80th birthday. For those who are born between 02/09/41 and 01/09/42 will become eligible in April 2019.

From September 2019 the vaccine will be available to all those between the ages of 70 and 79.

Read more about who can have the shingles vaccine.

How do I get the shingles vaccination?

Your GP will probably invite you to the surgery for the vaccination. You can have it at the same time as your flu jab in the autumn if you wish.

If you think you have missed your invitation contact your GP surgery and make an appointment so you don’t miss out on your vaccine.

Do you need to have the shingles vaccination every year?

No, it's a one-off single injection.

Will there be any side effects from the shingles vaccination?

It's quite common to experience redness and discomfort at the vaccination site as well as headaches, but these side effects shouldn't last more than a few days. See your GP if you have persistent side effects, or if you develop a rash after having the shingles vaccination.

Read more about the side effects of the shingles vaccine.

What about people who aren't yet 70? Will they get the shingles vaccine?

People under the age of 70 will get the shingles vaccine during the year following their 70th birthday. It's not available on the NHS to younger people, because shingles is more common in the over-70s.

Why can't I have the shingles vaccination if I'm 80 or over?

It's not available on the NHS to this age group as the vaccine doesn't work as well in people aged 80 and older.

Which people shouldn't have the shingles vaccine?

You shouldn't have the vaccine if you've had a serious allergic reaction, such as an anaphylactic reaction, in the past to any of its ingredients, such as neomycin (your GP can tell you if this applies to you), or if you have a weakened immune system (again, your GP can advise you).

Will the shingles vaccine stop me getting shingles?

It won't guarantee that you won't get shingles, but it will reduce your chances. And, if you do get shingles, the vaccine will likely make the symptoms milder and the illness shorter. You'll also be less likely to get shingles complications such as postherpetic neuralgia.

Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've never had chickenpox?

Yes. The chances are that you have had chickenpox at some point without knowing it. Some people have chickenpox without displaying any of the typical chickenpox symptoms like rash.

Should I have the shingles vaccine if I've already had shingles?

Yes. The shingles vaccine works very well in people who have had shingles before and it will boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.

Can I get the shingles vaccine privately?

The shingles jab is available privately for anyone aged 50 or above. It's expensive and in limited supply, though. Expect to pay between £100 and £200. Your GP can advise on whether it's safe for you to have, but you may need to visit a private clinic to arrange this.

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Last Updated: 01/04/2017 09:00:00