Should I get a shingles shot?

10/14 UPDATE: check out “Answers to your top 10 shingles questions” for a follow-up to all the questions we’ve received on this topic. 

Last week, I got my shingles vaccine.

It’s estimated that nearly 1 in 3 Americans will get shingles in their lifetime. Unfortunately, few people get the shingles vaccine, even though it’s pretty easy to find. In the eight years since the vaccine was offered, fewer than 10% of all eligible patients had received it.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the zoster virus – the same one that causes chickenpox. Nearly everyone over age 40 has already had chickenpox. After you get chickenpox, the zoster virus lies inactive in certain nerves. Shingles happens when the virus starts up again.

shingles shot

Don’t wait till it’s too late! Know when to get your shingles shot.

While shingles can happen at any age, it’s more common in people over 50. A person’s risk can also be increased if they have a weaker immune system because of illness or medication. If you haven’t had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, it’s possible to get the zoster virus through direct contact with the shingles rash. (But it’s more likely you would develop chickenpox, not shingles.)

First signs 

Pain, tingling, burning, or numbness of the skin is usually the first sign of shingles, followed by a rash a few days later. Caught early enough, oral antiviral medications can shorten the course of the infection.

To treat pain, prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers are usually recommended. About 20% of people continue to have severe pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia, long after the rash clears up.

It can be prevented: zoster vaccine

Introduced in 2006, Zostavax® is the vaccine used to prevent shingles. The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices recommends a single dose of the zoster vaccine for adults 60 years or older as part of their regular health care. The vaccine can also be given to adults aged 50 to 59. If you’ve already had shingles, getting the shingles vaccine now can help you avoid getting it again. (Check with your health care professional on the timing of a shingles shot if you’ve already had the disease.)

The most common side effects of the shingles shot are headache and redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site. Some people who get the vaccine develop a rash near the shot site that should be covered until it disappears. While it’s good to be careful about the safety of newer medicines, the shingles vaccine has been tested in about 20,000 people and closely studied among an additional 200,000. It’s been proven to be safe and well tolerated.

Medicare Part D coverage

Medicare Part D covers the cost of the shingles vaccine. Check your plan benefits before getting the vaccine, since Medicare Part D rules vary. Your insurance company could also cover some or all of the cost, and some public health departments offer the shot at a reduced price.

Where can I get the vaccine?

Trained Walgreens pharmacists can give a wide range of CDC-recommended immunizations and vaccines, including Zostavax®. Find your local Walgreens using the Store Locator and make time to get your shingles shot.

Be well, stay well ~

Pharmacist Andy

Andy Stergachis, Ph.D., R.Ph.

Andy Stergachis is the Director of the Global Medicines Program at the University of Washington in Seattle and a subject expert on public health and pharmacy-related topics.

Latest posts by Andy Stergachis, Ph.D., R.Ph. (see all)

    98 Responses to Should I get a shingles shot?
    1. Nancy
      January 4, 2014 | 10:04 pm

      I’m afraid that it will make me sick. I’m 60 now and some of my family already had this. I can’t tolerate pain ether way don’t know what to do.

      • Sally
        January 8, 2014 | 12:36 pm

        I agree. Can you get shingles from the shingles shot?

      • Janice Jay
        January 8, 2014 | 3:45 pm

        I have had the shingles and let me tell you I do not wish them on anyone. It is a terribly painful couple of weeks and the only relief you get is if the physician gives you Loritabs or some type of pain medication to get you through it. The discomfort of the shot is nothing compared to suffering w/ Shingles. That’s just my opinion, as one who experienced it.

      • Barbara
        January 8, 2014 | 4:56 pm

        To all of you who are sitting on the fence regarding this very serious and painful illness, I can tell you first hand how bad it can be. If you listen to any of the shingles commercials – believe them. I had a very serious case of shingles a little over a year ago and was hospitalized for 5 days, 2 of which were in ICU. The pain is the worst ever and the damage to the nerves causes horrible continuing burning pain and itching. The only medication that was effective when the pain was really severe was Lyrica and that medication is extremely expensive. I am still on nerve pain medication but a cheaper med called gabapentine is doing the job now. It was recommended that I get a shingles vaccine even after having had this severe case because they can attack you again. That shingles virus is in your body if you’ve ever had chicken pox and it stays there. The vaccine does not make you sick or cause you to have shingles but may cause a tiny outbreak of a pox or two. I had one large pox from the vaccine but it was not painful nor troublesome. So get off the fence and get your shingles shot and don’t let the expense stop you. That’s what I did. When it only cost $100 I thought that was way too much to pay for a vaccine but I can tell you that I spent that much each month just for meds to relieve the pain, not to mention the cost of hospital and doctors. Take care of yourselves.

      • Helen
        January 9, 2014 | 12:18 am

        I got the shot and six weeks later I got shingles. I had to wear a pain patch for the pain. I felt awful for five weeks.. The shot only protects you 50%. I was 60 when I got the shot.

      • Pharmacist Andy
        February 1, 2014 | 5:57 pm

        While any vaccine can have side effects, such as an allergic reaction or a rash or discomfort at the site of injection, studies have found the shingles vaccine to be safe and well-tolerated. Since shingles itself is so painful and debilitating, lowering the risk by getting the shot is a decision that many choose to do, particularly those 60 years and older.

        Pharmacist Andy

    2. Mary
      January 8, 2014 | 3:00 pm

      One reason I have not gotten it yet is the cost. PLUS why is a DR prescription needed when this is a vaccination just like the flu, or pneumonia vaccine?

      • Judy Donaghey
        January 8, 2014 | 9:54 pm

        A Dr.’s prescription is not needed. I am 70 and walked into my Walgreen’s store and asked the Pharmacist if I could get a shingles shot. She have me a form to fill out and I got the shot ,no problem. If you have Medicare Part D, some of the expense will be covered especially if you have already met your deductible. It really is a no brainier! I’ve known people who lost part of their vision because the rash went into their eyes. get the shot!

        • Pharmacist Andy
          February 1, 2014 | 6:09 pm

          In most states, pharmacists can give vaccines to patients through entering into practice agreements with physicians and by undergoing additional training leading to certification. These are known as collaborative drug therapy agreements and while laws and regulations vary state-to-state, this is a fairly common practice that expands access to many types of immunizations – including the shingles vaccine – without having to go to the doctor’s office. Patients should check with your local pharmacy to find out if they offer the shingles vaccine.

          Pharmacist Andy

    3. Joy
      January 8, 2014 | 3:02 pm

      I am 64 and thought the shot might make me sick. My older sister had shingles twice and was in a lot of pain so I decided to go ahead with the shot. So glad I did! Not painful and no problems. Went out shopping afterwards.

    4. Diane michael
      January 8, 2014 | 3:05 pm

      Do I need a doctor’s prescription?

      • Pharmacist Andy
        February 1, 2014 | 6:11 pm

        In most states, pharmacists can give vaccines to patients through entering into practice agreements with physicians and by undergoing additional training leading to certification. These are known as collaborative drug therapy agreements and while laws and regulations vary state-to-state, this is a fairly common practice that expands access to many types of immunizations – including the shingles vaccine – without having to go to the doctor’s office. Patients should check with your local pharmacy to find out if they offer the shingles vaccine.

        Pharmacist Andy

        • jolene groome
          April 9, 2014 | 1:39 pm

          Who should not get the shingles shot?

    5. RobbieRobeen
      January 8, 2014 | 3:28 pm

      I am 61 and got the shingles vaccination. I had nothing other than a tiny red area for les than a couple of days. My mom knew a couple of people from her yrs. Of retirement in Arizona that suffered from shingles long after the actual time of the illness and kept urging me to get it as soon a I turned 60. It was expensive, out of my pocket–but insurance reimbursed all of the expense except $30.00. Glad I had it done. The administrator said I was good for 30 yrs.

    6. Pam
      January 8, 2014 | 3:36 pm

      I have a question, I have an egg allergy so I have never had a flu shot. But will the shingles shot cause me a problem?

      • Pharmacist Andy
        February 1, 2014 | 6:24 pm

        Egg products are not listed by the manufacturer in the list of ingredients for Zostavax, the shingles vaccine. The inactive ingredients contained in the vaccine are sucrose, hydrolyzed porcine gelatin, sodium chloride, monosodium L-glutamate, sodium phosphate dibasic, potassium phosphate monobasic, potassium chloride. The manufacturer recommentds that you should not get the vaccine if you are allergic to any of these as if you are allergic to neomycin. If you have an egg allergy you should always ask about egg protein content before receiving a vaccine.

        Pharmacist Andy

        • Becky Holden
          February 18, 2014 | 7:30 pm

          My husband is allergic to something in triple antibiotic ointment. He breaks out in a rash and itches. Wouldn’t it be better to have the reaction than to have the shingles?

    7. Sandy
      January 8, 2014 | 3:37 pm

      Be very careful and check directly with your insurance to be sure you are covered as the shot’s expensive. Walgreen’s associates assured me I was covered, I got the shot and many months later got a bill from Walgreen’s demanding payment. It took months and hours on the phone to finally get my insurance to “make an exception” and pay.

    8. Paula
      January 8, 2014 | 3:40 pm

      You can still get shingles even if you do get the vaccine. But it will not be as severe. It happened to me.

    9. Patti
      January 8, 2014 | 3:51 pm

      I never had chickenpox. I am 64. Should I get the vaccine anyway?

      • Cindy
        January 8, 2014 | 4:11 pm

        Since you’re most at risk for shingles if you had chickenpox, I would think not. But if you’ve never been vaccinated against chickenpox and never had it, I would look into getting that vaccine. It’s just my opinion, though; I’m not a doctor!

      • Debra
        January 8, 2014 | 4:13 pm

        My understanding is that through a blood test the doctor can tell if you’ve been exposed to chickenpox. My doctor said that if you’ve been exposed, then you’re at risk for shingles. The next time you’re having a blood test for something else, just ask the doctor to see if you’ve been exposed.

        • Violetblu
          September 4, 2014 | 1:48 pm

          VZV is known by many names, including Chickenpox Virus, Varicella Virus, Zoster Virus, and Human Herpes Virus Type-3 (HHV-3). Shingles only affects people who had Chickenpox and there is a Varicella Zoster blood test that an adult can take to determine if they had chickenpox as a child especially since some children may have had a very mild case of Chickenpox and the virus might not have been obvious. After having a bout of Chickenpox, the virus becomes inactive or dormant remaining in the nerve roots for life. Later in life, the virus “awakens” causing Shingles symptoms.

          Bare in mind that the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) is one of “eight” herpes viruses known to infect humans, therefore, proper diagnosis is key! VZV commonly causes chickenpox in children, teens and young adults and shingles in adults and rarely in children.

      • Pharmacist Andy
        February 1, 2014 | 6:34 pm

        The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they recall having had chickenpox or not. Interestingly, according to the CDC studies show that more than 99% of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember getting the disease.

        Pharmacist Andy

        • lewis richardson
          October 24, 2014 | 3:00 pm

          my doctor is saying that I should NOT get the shingles shot if I’v never had chicken pox!

          • DaveP
            January 10, 2015 | 1:44 pm

            You should see about getting the chicken pox vaccine. No chicken pox = no shingles. You don’t want to get either. Trust me.

    10. Claudia Zekas
      January 8, 2014 | 4:15 pm

      Pharmacist Andy: Your shingles essay was perhaps written 6 years ago, and now partially updated. In the early part, you say the vaccine has been avail. for 2 years. Later you state that it has been on the market since 2006 (which is correct).

      Otherwise, I strongly believe in this vaccine. I had the shot around 2007, yet I got shingles 5 or 6 years later. Perhaps because of the vaccine, mine was a mild case. It took me 5 days to see a doctor and start the med, after which the illness did not progress. I was lucky to have had such a mild case, and I’ve learned in the past year that yes, another vaccine is recommended. I have it on my list of errands in the new year.

      • Pharmacist Andy
        February 1, 2014 | 6:42 pm

        Thank you for your comment. The shingles vaccine called Zostavax by Merck was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2006. So it has now been on the market for about 7 years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that research suggests that the shingles vaccine is effective for at least six years, but may last longer. Studies are underway to learn more about the duration of protection from one dose of zoster vaccine and the need, if any, for booster doses. This is a topic that should be discussed with your health care provider.

        Pharmacist Andy

    11. Betty
      January 8, 2014 | 4:29 pm

      I don’t think Wellcare covers this.

    12. Francine
      January 8, 2014 | 4:45 pm

      I have asked doctors, pharmacy’s and called the people producing the vaccine to see if I should get the vaccine. I have HAD shingles, it is painful, I have lots of skin problems on a regular basis. I can’t get a straight answer, should I or not?

    13. Linda Harlow
      January 8, 2014 | 6:15 pm

      Why do you have to have a doctor say you need it? I’ve had it and suffered with it until it went away twice already. I can’t afford the shot but in August I turn 60 and will get it anyway…without the doctor visit that costs a copay. Can’t I get it now vs. wait …or pay a doctor. Seems to me it is another scam for the doctors to get paid for nothing.

      • Francine
        January 8, 2014 | 6:42 pm

        I have had the shingles and want to know if the vaccine will keep me from getting it a 2ND Time.

        • Pharmacist Andy
          February 1, 2014 | 6:54 pm

          While uncommon, shingles can recur. I haven’t seen any studies on whether or not the shingles vaccine prevents the recurrence of shingles. And there is no clear guidance or recommendations for how to prevent repeat episodes of shingles. This is a topic that you should discuss with your health care provider.

          Pharmacist Andy

    14. rocketmouse
      January 8, 2014 | 10:36 pm

      I have the same question as Francine!

      When I had shingles (in my mid-50′s–I’m 66 now) it took me by surprise. Yes, I had heard of it, but because of its name in Swedish (belt-rose) I always thought the blisters occurred around your mid-section. Mine started on my thigh and appeared into the groin (scary!), and didn’t show up until several days after I had continuing excruciating pain in my low back. I was convinced I had a kidney stone (never had those) and downed gallons of water. Needless to say, that didn’t work, but as soon as the blisters appeared a physician was able to diagnose shingles (over the phone). By then it was too late for gabapentin (has to be taken in the first 48 hours) but when I went to a local clinic that’s nevertheless what they gave me. Up until last year (2013) I’ve suffered with post-herpetic neuralgia!

      I really wouldn’t care to have shingles a second time. The first one was too painful!

      • Deb
        January 9, 2014 | 12:35 am

        I was 47 and got the shingles. I thought it was a heat rash , but it was only on one side. I got it from my front labia to my back butt crack on the right side, all the way up to the top. It was the most miserable thing ever. Had to wear a sun dress, sat on the couch with a fan blowing on the area, used a ice pack to relieve the burning. I wanted to get a vaccine, but they said to check with insurance, they wouldn’t cover it till I was 50. I said but I am 47 and I have it now. So I have waited till I turn 50 and then I am getting one for sure. Don’t ever want that again.!!

    15. ndelery
      January 9, 2014 | 2:03 am

      I had the shingles shot a year ago. This year I got a very mild case of shingles. I had 6 blisters on my face and the pain was excruciating. If I had not had the shot, I would have had that pa
      in over my whole body. I highly recommend the shot.

    16. Joan
      January 9, 2014 | 4:43 am

      I have an allergy to edible PORK diagnosed when I was 44 years old.! I always read Ingredient Lists and have discovered in several products the word “Porcine” which refers to a pork derivative or product. I found it on the ingredient list for the Shingles vaccine. I will not be getting vaccinated with this. I do suffer from Herpes Type 1 and Ocular Herpes. I take Acyclovir daily to prevent flareups. Will that give me some protection from contracting Shingles? I had Chicken Pox as a child.

      • Pharmacist Andy
        February 1, 2014 | 7:05 pm

        Among the inactive ingredients listed for the shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is hydrolyzed porcine gelatin. While acyclovir is used to treat the symptoms of shingles, I am not aware of whether or not daily use of acyclovir suppresses shingles. Acyclovir is not FDA approved for preventing shingles.

        Pharmacist Andy

    17. Sandy
      January 11, 2014 | 3:20 am

      Like Francine & Rocketmouse, I have had shingles & do not care to get it again! Should I get the vaccine? No answer has been given!

    18. Linda
      January 29, 2014 | 5:07 pm

      I got the shot last year and had not pain at all. Proud I got it. My doctor said he got one at Walgreens and I did too.

    19. Sherry L. Benson
      January 29, 2014 | 6:01 pm

      I got my Shingles vaccine about 4 months ago and didn’t have one symptom from it or a problem with it. Make sure to have to pharmacy staff check and see it your insurance company will pay for it if your pharmacy plan won’t. They are 2 separate entities.

    20. lisa
      January 30, 2014 | 3:08 am

      Don’t wait people, get that shot. I am only 46 and have had several back surgeries. Nothing compared to the shingles pain. Dr. Said I had to wait a year after shingles to try and get vaccine. Next fight will be with insurance co, but I’m still getting it.

      • Linda
        January 31, 2014 | 12:11 am

        I think many can’t afford it is one reason people don’t get it. Don’t think insurance will pay any on it unless you are 60.

        • Peggy Young
          May 6, 2014 | 10:06 pm

          I am 75 and I will be getting my shot this PM. The shot isn’t bothering me it is the cost.
          Here in New Zealand the cost will be $240.00 so I sure hope it works.

    21. rocketmouse
      January 30, 2014 | 3:56 pm

      Why no health professional’s answer to this serious question?

      • Walgreens
        January 31, 2014 | 4:31 pm

        Hi, thanks for your question – here’s some quick input on the vaccine and getting shingles a second time:

        “The shingles vaccine, known as Zostavax, doesn’t eliminate all cases. Studies show that it cuts the risk of shingles by about half in people over age 60. The cases that do occur in vaccinated people tend to be milder.

        If it’s possible to get shingles more than once, why does a vaccine work at all? Eddy Bresnitz, Merck’s medical director for adult vaccines, says that unlike most vaccines, which prime a person’s immune system to ward off a virus the first time it invades, Zostavax boosts the immune system’s ability to keep the preexisting herpes infection in check, even though it never fully disappears.”


        All the feedback and contributions on this topic are much appreciated, more detailed responses forthcoming.

        • rocketmouse
          January 31, 2014 | 10:06 pm

          Thank you for that! And for the Source article link! They seem to think that’s vaccine locator should be able to tell where there’s a supply of the vaccine. Not so. All I ever get is nothing, no matter how many miles I add to the search, nor when I input the name of my primary. Oh well. The source article was helpful, anyway. I suggest others go there as well if they need more explanations.

    22. PTA Student
      February 5, 2014 | 6:18 am

      Ex-boyfriend is 41 years old and has had shingles at least 3 times. Very painful each time. I mentioned the vaccine to him, but he refused. You can lead a horse to water…

      Keep in mind that stress lowers your immunity… Breathe…

    23. Marie
      February 19, 2014 | 12:54 pm

      I’m confused. I did have the chicken pox when I was a little kid. So am I supposed to have the vaccine?

      • Linda
        February 24, 2014 | 5:19 pm

        Yes if you are 60.

    24. Dolcar
      February 23, 2014 | 4:15 pm

      I had the shot in 2006. Should I get another. I.m 84

    25. Tom Hayes
      April 9, 2014 | 2:52 pm

      My first outbreak was in 1978, while at college. It was a rather mild outbreak, with only a 1″ band around my waist. I had thought it was poison ivy, until I noticed the ‘pattern’. Since it is associated with the nervous system, that outbreak showed me how the nerves come out of the spinal column, and traverse around the body, just below the skin surface. This was also shown to me by the doctor at the Ga Tech infirmary, when I went there for a diagnosis.
      My next attack was July 2012, a week into a seven week stay in Denmark. It was a nasty attack on my front, back, and upper right arm. Thank goodness it was in the Summer! I went for three weeks without a shirt, whenever possible. The Danish folks gave me an antiviral, (Acyclovir), in an attempt to lessen the effects, and possibly shorten the timeline…. I have nearly daily pictures, eight days of erupting, as ugly proof. It finally started to go away, after several weeks. But, the post-herpetic neuralgia lasted into January…. At that time, I was back in Denmark again. ‘My doctor’, (Remember, Denmark has free ‘social medicine’, and made it available to this visitor, thank goodness!!), put 11 needles in me…. The acupuncture worked quite well!!! I have not had any further ‘symptoms’, in over a year….

      Now, pay attention: You MAY NOT get vaccinated, until one year after the symptoms go away!
      I had planned to get vaccinated, last month. I forgot about it. This article will get me back to doing that, very soon! And, BTW: It is now available to the 50 year-old, and up crowd! That having to be at least 60, in order to get the vaccination, was why I did not get it in time for that second attack!! Ironically, there was not a PR push about the reduced age requirement!, (March 24, 2011). If there had been, I might not have had that second attack! I suggest that everyone over 50 years old should get vaccinated, IMHO….

      So, Thanks for the article, Walgreens!!!

    26. Debbie
      April 25, 2014 | 2:03 am

      I’m 59 and in the 1% group that has never had chicken pox, which was verified by my doctor through a blood test. He wants me to get the vaccine because of immune suppressive drugs he will be starting me on. I’m apprehensive about getting the vaccine. Any advice?

    27. robert
      May 25, 2014 | 10:00 pm

      Last year when I got the shingles wast told at the wallgreens once you get it/vaccine is a waste
      of money then.Was told to wait 7 days by then the infection would have subsided then you take the vaccine..

      So I will every year I think i am going to do this after I get second opinion with a physician


    28. Janet
      June 14, 2014 | 2:18 am

      I currently have shingles on my back. This is the second time in 6 months. The first time was my face. I am 47. How soon can I get the vaccine? This is getting very pain full. Thank you.

      • Pharmacist Andy
        June 16, 2014 | 5:22 pm

        The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers this guidance: “The general guideline for any vaccine is to wait until the acute stage of the illness is over and symptoms abate.” Further, “Zoster vaccine should be given regardless of a history of shingles. Shingles does recur, and there is no biological or epidemiological evidence to indicate that persons are at reduced risk for shingles for any period of time following a prior episode of shingles.”

        I hope this is helpful and I wish you a speedy recovery.

        Pharmacist Andy

    29. Justin sr
      August 12, 2014 | 6:58 am

      Pharmacist Andy,
      I am 34 male and I do believe I have a shingles outbreak. I am told it is most common in 50 yr+. I am looking for treatment as to make this rash go away. Will the shingles vaccine do that for me?? Do I need treatment to make it go away?? Will it subside on its own after causing me great pain and discomfort?? Is their any over the counter medicine I can use to make it better( keep it clean, alcohol, peroxide, Neosporin ) ??

    30. Pharmacist Andy
      August 12, 2014 | 5:02 pm

      You should consider seeing a doctor promptly to get properly diagnosed. Even though it is more common in older persons, shingles can certainly develop at an earler age. If you do have shingles, your doctor may want you to start treatment with antiviral medicines. Caught early enough, oral antiviral medications can shorten the course of the infection and reduce the changes of possible long-term complications. If you already have shingles, the shingles vaccine will not make your infection go away. The vaccine can, however, help you avoid getting it again but check with your health care professional on the timing of a shingles shot if you do have shingles now.

      Some useful information on how to reduce the pain can be found at this web site,
      To summarize this WebMD article:
      Taking good care of skin sores:
      Avoid picking at and scratching blisters. If left alone, blisters will crust over and fall off naturally.
      Use cool, moist compresses if they help ease discomfort. Lotions, such as calamine, may be applied after wet compresses.
      Apply cornstarch or baking soda to help dry the sores so that they heal more quickly.
      Soak crusted sores with tap water or Burow’s solution to help clean away crusts, decrease oozing, and dry and soothe the skin.
      Ask your doctor about using topical creams to help relieve the inflammation caused by shingles.
      If your skin becomes infected, ask your doctor about prescription antibiotic creams or ointments.

      Again, check with your doctor. I hope you feel better soon.
      Pharmacist Andy

    31. Violetblu
      September 4, 2014 | 1:01 pm

      Pharmacist Andy, When you’re immune system is compromised by antibodies and you had a total thyroidectomy, would a Shingles Vaccination be beneficial or detrimental? Is Shingles heredity? Thank you.

    32. Pharmacist Andy
      September 4, 2014 | 7:53 pm

      According to the manufacturer’s Prescribing Information, the shingles vaccine (ZOSTAVAX) should not be given to people who are immunosuppressed or immunodeficient. It is unclear from your question how that applies to you so I recommend you talk this over with your physician. The concern is that ZOSTAVAX is a live, but weakened virus vaccine and people with compromised immune systems might develop the infection. Regarding your question about whether or not shingles is hereditary, there are studies that indicate there is a link between family history and shingles outbreak – in other words, there is a higher risk of getting shingles if family members (‘blood relatives’) have had shingles. Thank you for your questions.
      Pharmacist Andy

      • Violetblu
        September 5, 2014 | 4:41 pm

        Thank you for your reply, Pharmacist Andy. I have a strong paternal/maternal family history of autoimmune diseases. Prior to my total thyroidectomy surgery, the Thyroid Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Tests and a Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) Test which was just over the high normal limit, lead to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Disease. Post-surgery, I have had the Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA) Titer and Pattern Testing which indicated a “speckled” ANA pattern and low antibody level ANA Titer. Taking all of this into consideration, I will not proceed with the Zostavac. Again, thank you.

    33. Linda
      September 13, 2014 | 2:14 pm

      Can I get a second shingles shot? I am 66 years old and I am not sure if I got a shingles shot from my previous doctor six years ago.

    34. Pharmacist Andy
      September 17, 2014 | 3:22 pm

      A second or booster shot of the shingles vaccine is not currently recommended by CDC or the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. If possible, try to get your records from your previous doctor to determine if you already received the shingles vaccine, also called the herpes zoster vaccine. However, the AICP notes that “the protection offered by the herpes zoster vaccine wanes within the first 5 years after vaccination, and duration of protection beyond 5 years is uncertain, it is unknown to what extent persons vaccinated before age 60 years will be protected as they age and their risk for herpes zoster and its complications increases.” This is something to discuss with your health care provider.
      Pharmacist Andy

    35. Susan
      September 20, 2014 | 5:08 pm

      I contracted herpes simplex HSV-2 when I was younger. My doctor prescribed Acyclovir as a suppression drug. I take 400mg twice a day. My previous doctor says I have to stop taking my suppression medicine before I can get a Shingles shot. This is impossible because then I have an outbreak within two weeks. My new doctor says, Shingles is a relative of Chickenpox — a different herpes strain — and I DO NOT have to stop taking my Acyclovir to get the Shingles Shot. I am 60 years old. Do you have an opinion on this?

    36. Pharmacist Andy
      September 24, 2014 | 9:45 am

      Thank you for your comment. The herpes virus that causes shingles and chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus, is not the same as the herpes virus that causes genital herpes and herpes mouth sores – they are different viruses.

      Both the prescribing information and the patient information for ZOSTAVAX (the shingles vaccine) are silent on the issue of use of acyclovir at the time of getting a shingles vaccine shot. However, I did some research and identified a CDC document from 2008 that provides the following information (aplogies in advance for the technical nature of this information): “Licensed antiviral medications active against members of the herpesvirus family include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. These agents might interfere with replication of the live, VZV-based zoster vaccine. All three agents have relatively short serum half-lives and are quickly cleared from the body. Persons taking chronic acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir should discontinue these medications at least 24 hours before administration of zoster vaccine, if possible. These medications should not be used for at least 14 days after vaccination, by which time the immunologic effect should be established”

      Best to check with your doctor. I hope this is helpful.
      Pharmacist Andy

    37. Susan
      September 25, 2014 | 12:08 am

      Thank you, Andy. I appreciate your time and research. I think I will go the CDC’s route because it
      makes sense to me. With all of the conflicting information these days, a person has to be proactive about their health. This is a great site and I have learned a lot from the people who write and the answers you give them. Keep this blog going. It’s important to all of us. Thank you, again.

    38. Alexis
      October 10, 2014 | 9:11 pm

      I am 18 and have had shingles before. I want to know if I’d be able to get the vaccine

    39. Mo
      October 12, 2014 | 3:51 am

      I hAve many allergies and a sensitivity to monosodium glutenate it causes my asthma to flare. Is this what is in the shot?

      • Pharmacist Andy
        October 18, 2014 | 5:33 am

        One of the inactive ingredients contained in the shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is monosodium glutamate.

        Pharmacist Andy

    40. P. Brodie
      October 14, 2014 | 12:44 am

      I am a senior and had shingles a few years ago. It is necessary to have a shingles shot?

    41. Pharmacist Andy
      October 18, 2014 | 5:03 am

      According to the US CDC, “even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific time that you must wait after having shingles before receiving the shingles vaccine. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your health care provider. Generally, a person should make sure that the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated. CDC recommends Zostavax for use in people 60 years old and older to prevent shingles.” This is a one-time vaccination. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine. I hope this is helpful.

      Pharmacist Andy

    42. martha nalley
      October 22, 2014 | 8:16 am

      Do I need a doctor’s prescription in order to get a shingles shot at walgreens? Or just walk in?

    43. sharon merciers
      October 26, 2014 | 11:31 am

      Got the shingles shot and my arm is very sore and I had a little fever and headache also got the pneumonia shot in same arm very sore I am 62

    44. Walgreens
      October 31, 2014 | 5:04 pm

      Hi, Pharmacist Andy has written a follow-up to address Stay Well readers’ questions on shingles and the shingles vaccine:

      Please let us know if this information helps- thanks!

    45. Arlenis
      November 14, 2014 | 7:02 am

      Get the vaccine! No matter the age you can still get shingles. I was in 5th grade when I got shingles and I got it on my face. It is the worst pain in the world basically burning your flesh! I got it again when I was 18. Don’t suffer get the shot.

    46. Sheson
      November 30, 2014 | 2:32 am

      Dear Pharmacist Andy-
      I get a spot on my right upper hip about size of half dollar which was diagnosed as shingles. Pain radiates into lower back, groin, and down leg. I have taken presc for this MANY times as it comes back approx 3-4 times a year. This has occurred going on 20 + years now. I readon this thread I must wait a year after break out to recieve
      immunization, if this is case I may never be able to get it. I am so tired of dealing with this. I actually broke out again this morning. Last time was 4months ago. Please advise.

    47. Don Fierce
      December 12, 2014 | 5:43 pm

      Does Walgeens take medicare with TRICARE for life as supplemental for shingles shot? Military retirees use tricare for life vice part d. The claim to tricare for life is processed though medicare. Local pharm tech was unsure Thanks

    48. ryan
      December 21, 2014 | 9:08 pm

      I was 78 when I got a shingles shot ,arm was a little sore but that was all Someone in my family had the shingles and they said it was too painful…ciaofornow

    49. Claudette Ramaley
      January 5, 2015 | 5:00 pm

      I had the shot 2 years ago and it didn’t help me

    50. Marion Schafer
      January 19, 2015 | 3:18 am

      I am a Canadian snowbird down here in Arizona for the winter. Presently the shingles vaccine is not covered in Canada and costs around CAD 280. How much would it cost me in the U.S.?

      • Walgreens
        January 19, 2015 | 10:34 pm

        Hi, the over-the-counter price for a shingles vaccine is $225 US. Pharmacists in Arizona can administer Zostavax under protocol for patients aged 60 and older without a prescription.

        • Marion Schafer
          January 19, 2015 | 10:38 pm

          Thank you, this helps a lot as I am 61.

    51. Joyce Rodella
      January 20, 2015 | 2:41 am

      I received the Shingles vaccine (ZOSTAVAX) on January 14, 2014. On January 17 I noticed some burning on my left side. Today (January 19) the burning seemed to be worse so I called my doctor. I now have the first stages of shingles and am on the anti-viral medication. Was it possible for me to get shingles from the ZOSTAVAX vaccine?

      • Pharmacist Andy
        January 26, 2015 | 11:48 pm

        You cannot get shingles from the shingles vaccine. And according to the CDC, there’s no documentation of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the shingles vaccine (which contains varicella zoster virus). However, according to the CDC, some people who get the shingles vaccine will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the place where they were vaccinated. As a precaution, this rash should be covered until it disappears. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine in studies of about 20,000 people were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache.

        Pharmacist Andy

    52. Jo Ann
      January 20, 2015 | 5:15 am

      I will turn 59 in a few days. I live in California. Can I get the shingles vaccine without a doctors order?

    53. Walgreens
      January 20, 2015 | 5:19 pm

      Have more shingles questions? We have more answers here:

    54. john
      January 24, 2015 | 1:18 am

      I am 71 & live in S.Carolina. I had the chicken pox win I was a kid. I don’t have part D insurance. How much is this going to cost me out of pocket & do I need a prescription.

      • Linda
        January 24, 2015 | 6:11 am

        Not sure if the shots have gone down or up. They were close to $300 when I got mine about three years ago. If you are a veteran they will give you the shot. My part was $75 but do have part D.

      • Pharmacist Andy
        January 26, 2015 | 11:58 pm

        In most states, pharmacists can give vaccines to patients through entering into practice agreements with physicians and by undergoing additional training leading to certification. These are known as collaborative drug therapy agreements and while laws and regulations vary state-to-state, this is a fairly common practice that expands access to many types of immunizations – including the shingles vaccine – without having to go to the doctor’s office. You should check with your local pharmacy to find out if they offer the shingles vaccine. If you have some form of health insurance, please check with your insurance company as they might cover some or all of the cost for people over 60 years of age. If not, some public health departments offer the shot at a reduced price. The company that makes the shingles vaccine has a website with useful information on insurance coverage:

        Pharmacist Andy

      • Walgreens
        January 27, 2015 | 3:45 pm

        Hi, a prescription for the shingles vaccine would be required in your case. The out-of-pocket cost is $224.99. You can always check with your pharmacist on the specific regulations in your state.

    55. Thelma Wickwere
      February 2, 2015 | 5:28 pm

      I had the shingles 30 years ago, a mild case, so I asked my Doc why I should contemplate getting the shingles shot. According to him, immunity to shingles (and other diseases) can weaken over time. It’s not just a painful, but also can be life-threatening for older folks, those with compromised immune systems and — especially — if it gets into your eyes or other mucus membranes. Think of getting the shingles shot as insurance against this common disease (and remember as a medical expense, it can be tax-deductible!).

    56. Ann lima
      February 8, 2015 | 1:55 am

      I have psoriasis and had chickenpox at age 44yrs, I am now 65 can I have the shingles shot?

      • Violetblu
        February 9, 2015 | 4:49 pm

        Ann lima, Since Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, perhaps it would benefit you refer to Pharmacist Andy’s answers to my questions dated 09/04/14 above. Violetblu

        • Pharmacist Andy
          February 10, 2015 | 4:32 am

          Thank you for your question and comment. Since the shingles vaccine is a weakened, live virus vaccine, the concern is whether or not people with compromised immune systems – such as individuals with psoriasis or under treatment with immune suppressing drugs called biologics – might actually develop the infection. I suggest you check with your physician about your specific circumstances. One large study published in the medical journal JAMA in 2012 concluded that the shingles vaccine was not associated with a short-term increase in shingles among those with selected immune-mediated diseases, including those with psoriasis as well as those exposed to drugs called biologics. The shingles vaccine was associated with a lower shingles occurance over a median of 2 years of follow-up.
          For more information see:

    57. MIKE
      February 24, 2015 | 3:32 pm

      While shingles can affect 1 of 3 adults, my Doctor said the shot only works in about 1 in 20 people and is expensive. Not great odds if that is true.

      • Walgreens
        March 3, 2015 | 11:21 pm

        From author Pharmacist Andy:

        Thank you for your question. Actually, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime. And in a clinical trial involving thousands of adults 60 years old or older, the shingles vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by about half (50%).

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