How Long Does the Shingles Vaccine Last?

Reviewed on 3/4/2021

Shingles is a painful belt-like patterned rash caused by varicella-zoster virus (a type of herpesvirus, the same virus that causes chickenpox). The best way to prevent shingles is vaccination, which can last about four to five years.
Shingles is a painful belt-like patterned rash caused by varicella-zoster virus (a type of herpesvirus, the same virus that causes chickenpox). The best way to prevent shingles is vaccination, which can last about four to five years.

Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) shingles vaccine is available in a single dose, and Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) requires two doses administered two to six months apart. The two-dose vaccine is preferred because it is more effective. 

  • Protection from the Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) shingles vaccine lasts about five years. Zostavax reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51% and postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles, by 67%.
  • Two doses of Shingrix shingles vaccine are more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. Protection from the Shingrix shingles vaccine stays above 85% for at least four years after vaccination. 

What Are the Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine?

Just like with any other medication or vaccine, there is always a risk of potential side effects or allergic reactions. The shingles vaccine, however, is considered to be safe and poses a small risk of side effects.

  • The Zostavax shingles vaccine may cause:
    • Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching at the site of the injection, or
    • Headache.
  • The Shingrix shingles vaccine may cause:

What Is Shingles?

Shingles is a painful belt-like patterned rash caused by varicella-zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). Shingles is more common in adults over 50 years of age and in people with conditions that weaken the immune system.

The varicella-zoster virus is a type of herpesvirus. Other herpesviruses include the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores and genital herpes.

What Are Symptoms of Shingles?

Early symptoms of shingles include: 

  • Abnormal sensations such as tingling, itching, or burning on part of the skin on one side of the body
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Feeling unwell (malaise)

After one to two days, symptoms of shingles include: 

  • A rash of blisters in a band-like pattern on one side of the body 
    • Commonly occurs on the trunk (chest, abdomen, and back) but can develop on almost any part of the body
    • After three to four days, blisters become open sores (ulcers)
    • After 7 to 10 days, the sores crust over and are no longer contagious (in people with healthy immune systems)
    • A rash near the eye that can permanently affect vision if not treated
  • Pain
    • Often starts days before the rash develops
    • May range from mild to severe
    • May have a stabbing, sharp, or burning feeling
    • Only affects the parts of the skin where the rash occurs, but it can be severe and interfere with daily activities and sleep
    • Is often worse in older adults than in younger people
  • Skin color changes and scarring may occur after shingles has gone away.

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Is Shingles Contagious?

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Once a person has had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body and may be reactivated later in life, causing shingles. 

Shingles itself is not transmitted from person-to-person, however, a person who never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can get chickenpox from a person who has shingles.

How Is Shingles Diagnosed?

Shingles can usually be diagnosed with a physical examination and patient history. 

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test may be used to confirm a diagnosis.

What Is the Treatment for Shingles?

Treatment of shingles usually involves a combination of antiviral and pain medications

  • Antiviral medications
  • Pain medications
  • Antibiotics, if the rash becomes infected
  • Home remedies to help relieve itching
  • Wet compresses
  • Calamine lotion
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths

Can Vaccination Prevent Shingles?

The primary way to prevent shingles is vaccination. There are two shingles vaccines available for adults 50 years and older to reduce the chance of developing shingles.

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Reviewed on 3/4/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/shingles-beyond-the-basics?search=herpes%20zoster&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/zostavax/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html