Shingles Vaccination

Shingles is a painful condition associated with a blistering rash affecting one side of the body. In the UK there is a 1 in 4 lifetime risk of developing shingles which is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus.

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After experiencing a bout of chickenpox, often during childhood, the shingles virus remains dormant in the body indefinitely, rarely causing complication. However, as we age, our immune system naturally weakens which may allow the inactive virus to reactivate, causing shingles.

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The virus is spread through direct contact with the fluid from the blistering rash caused by shingles.

A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. A person is not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.

Shingles is less contagious than Chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.

You cannot contract Shingles from being in contact with someone with Chickenpox infection, but you can develop Chickenpox infection form being in contact with someone that has shingles.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Before the onset of the rash you may experience itching, pain or abnormal skin sensations around the site to be affected. This is followed by the rash, which starts as red spots that then develop into blisters. The blisters can take up to 4 weeks to fully heal.

There may be associated symptoms such as headache, feeling tired and fever.


Shingles can lead to:

  1. Post Herpetic Neuralgia-this is persistence of the pain at the infection site. The pain can be shooting, burning or like electric shocks and skin is very tender to touch. The pain is debilitating and there is no treatment or cure for it. It can take months or even years to resolve.
  2.  Visual disturbance or loss caused by shingles infection of the eye.
  3. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain).
  4. Superimposed bacterial infection of the skin.
  5. Loss of muscle function if the nerve affected is motor neurone. For example, facial paralysis from infection of the facial nerve.


Anti-viral medications can be prescribed if diagnosed in the early stages to reduce the duration and severity of an attack.


The best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated. There are safe and effective vaccines, which are available privately to anyone over the age of 50 years of age, not eligible under the NHS immunisation programme.

CityDoc, the UK’s leading vaccine provider are proud to offer the new Shingles vaccine, Shingrix.

This is an inactivated vaccine which is over 90% effective against the prevention of shingles infection and over 88% effective at preventing the debilitating Post Herpetic Neuralgic complication of Shingles.

This is currently the most effective vaccine available against shingles and unlike the Zostavax, there is no reduction in effectiveness of the vaccine with age.


The vaccine is indicated for all individuals over the age of 50 years to prevent shingles infection. It works by boosting the body’s own natural immunity to the virus that causes the infection (Varicella Zoster).

Can children have the shingles vaccine?

The shingles vaccine is typically not given to children but is recommended for adults over 50 years of age.

Common and rare side effects of the shingles vaccine

Common side effects include soreness at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. Rare side effects can include severe allergic reactions.

The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults over the age of 50, as they are more likely to develop shingles. It is also advised for individuals who have previously experienced chickenpox.

The protection offered by the shingles vaccine can vary, but it typically lasts for at least five years. After this period, your healthcare provider may discuss the need for a booster.

Currently, there is no routine recommendation for a shingles booster. However, this may vary based on individual health conditions and age.

Adults over 50, individuals with weakened immune systems, and those who had chickenpox as children are at higher risk.

The cost of each shingles vaccination is £244 per dose, 2 required. Initially, there is an additional base fee of £20 which covers time spent with one of our specially trained healthcare professionals who will carry out a risk assessment.

The shingles vaccine is usually available free of charge on the NHS to people aged 65 – 79 years old or if you are 50+ with a weakened immune system. However the vaccine is available from private providers for people outside of the NHS eligibility.

Age Range Method of Administration Number of Doses Interval bewteen Doses Booster Requirements
From 50 years of age Intramuscular injection to the deltoid muscle of the upper arm 2 Ideally 2 months 2nd dose can be given up to 6 months after 1st dose. Not Known

Duration of Protection and Booster Doses

Study data shows persisting immunity up to 4 years after completion of 2nd dose. Duration of protection beyond this time frame is still being studied. The need for booster doses is unknown.

  • Individuals under 50 years of age (adults over 18 with a risk of Herpes Zoster (Shingles) can be assessed in clinic)
  • Anyone with active Shingles infection
  • Severe allergic reaction to previous dose of Shingrix or any of it’s components.
  • Pregnancy and Breast Feeding
  • Acute febrile illness (fever of >38.5 degrees Celsius).

Common Side Effects

Localised reactions

• Redness

• Swelling Pain at injection

• Swelling of the vaccinated limb can also occur but is uncommon.

Generalised Reactions

  • Fatigue
  • Myalgia
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal upset-nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Fever

As the vaccine is not live, there is no risk of transmission of infection to others following vaccination.

How does the shingles vaccine interact with other vaccines?

The shingles vaccine can generally be given alongside other vaccines, but scheduling and interactions should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

1) Is the vaccine safe?

The vaccine has been used in the US since 2006 and there have been no safety concerns. The most commonly reported side effects after vaccination is headache, or redness, swelling, pain or tenderness where the shot was given.  These symptoms are mild to moderate in intensity.  In rare cases, people who got vaccinated experienced a blister-like rash; some were found to have been caused by the vaccine.

2) Can I have the vaccine if I feel unwell?

The vaccine cannot be given if you have a fever. If there is a minor illness, such as a cold or cough, then the vaccine can be give, provided the clinician feels it is beneficial to do so in the consultation. 

3) Can I have the vaccine if I have just recovered form shingles infection?

Although the vaccine can be given to people who have had shingles vaccine, it is advisable to wait until all your symptoms have resolved. As you get a natural immune boost following shingles infection, it is best to wait for 1 year after this episode before having the vaccine. Vaccinations given earlier than this time may not be as effective. You cannot have the vaccine if you have ongoing symptoms of shingles. 

4) Can I have the vaccine if I have never had Chickenpox infection?

In temperate climates like the UK, the majority of the population will have had Chickenpox infection (estimated 95%). It may be that you did not develop obvious symptoms or had very mild infection. Therefore, the vaccine is still likely to be beneficial. However, if you are unsure, you can get tested for immunity to Chickenpox infection and the decision can be made based on the results. Shingles does not occur in individuals who have never had Chickenpox infection.

5) Am I infectious after getting the vaccine?

There has been no documented cases of transmission of the Shingles vaccine virus. However, we know this can occur with Chickenpox vaccine and the shingles vaccine contains the same virus strain. See section on risk of transmission for full advice.

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