Shingrix is a brand-name vaccine. It helps prevent shingles (herpes zoster) in adults ages 50 and older. The Shingrix vaccine isn’t approved for use in adults younger than age 50.

Shingrix isn’t used to prevent chickenpox (varicella).

Shingrix is given as an injection into the muscle (intramuscular), typically in your upper arm. You’ll receive two separate doses of the vaccine. After you receive the first dose, you can get the second dose two to six months later. A healthcare provider will give you the injections in your doctor’s office.

FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Shingrix in 2017.

Effectiveness

For information about the effectiveness of Shingrix, see the “Shingrix uses” section below.

Shingrix is available only as a brand-name medication. It’s not currently available in generic form.

A live vaccine is one that contains a weakened form of a germ. Shingrix is not a live vaccine. It’s an inactive vaccine, which is a vaccine that’s made from a germ that’s been killed.

Because Shingrix is inactive, more people can receive it. This includes people with a weakened immune system (the body’s defense against disease).

People with weakened immune systems are typically advised against receiving live vaccines. This is because on very rare occasions, live vaccines can mutate (change) back to the full-strength germ that causes a disease. If this happens, people with weakened immune systems would have a much higher risk for developing the disease that the vaccine is meant to prevent.

Shingrix is also a recombinant vaccine. This means that it’s made of parts of the shingles germ, such as protein, sugar, or capsid (a casing around the germ).

Zostavax is a different shingles vaccine that is live. (See the “Shingrix vs. Zostavax” section below to learn more.) If you’re unsure about which vaccine may be right for you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Shingrix can cause mild or serious side effects. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that you may have while taking Shingrix. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

For more information on the possible side effects of Shingrix or tips on how to deal with a troubling side effect, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

More common side effects

The more common side effects of Shingrix can include:

  • pain, redness, and swelling at site of injection
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach
  • dizziness
  • flu-like symptoms, including fever, shivering, and tiredness

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Shingrix aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Severe allergic reaction. See “Side effect details” below for more information.

Side effect details

You may wonder how often certain side effects occur with Shingrix. Here’s some detail on certain side effects this drug may cause.

Injection site reactions

You may have discomfort in the area of your arm where you get Shingrix. Symptoms may include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • itching
  • rash

It’s not known how often these symptoms occur.

Headaches

In some studies, researchers found that some people who received Shingrix experienced headaches. Headaches were more common after the second dose of the vaccine was given. These headaches happen after a dose and should go away within two to three days.

To find out how often this side effect occurred in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information. If you have questions or concerns about this potential side effect, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after receiving Shingrix. Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth and redness in your skin)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • angioedema (swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet)
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • low blood pressure

Call your doctor right away if you have a severe allergic reaction to Shingrix. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

As with all medications, the cost of Shingrix can vary.

The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance coverage and the pharmacy you use.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Shingrix, help is available.

GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, the manufacturer of Shingrix, offers a program called GSKforyou. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for support, call 866-728-4368 or visit the program website.

The only alternative to Shingrix is Zostavax, which is another vaccine. Both of these products are approved to prevent shingles (herpes zoster) in adults ages 50 and older. See below to find out how the drugs compare.

Besides Shingrix, Zostavax is the only other vaccine that’s available to help prevent shingles. Here we look at how Shingrix and Zostavax are alike and different.

Uses

Shingrix and Zostavax are both FDA-approved for preventing shingles (herpes zoster) in people ages 50 and older. These vaccines are not approved for preventing chickenpox (varicella). Shingrix and Zostavax are also not approved for treating shingles or postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles that causes burning pain.

A live vaccine is one that contains a weakened form of a germ. Shingrix is not a live vaccine. It’s an inactive vaccine, which is a vaccine that’s made from a germ that’s been killed.

Because Shingrix is inactive, more people can receive it. This includes people with a weakened immune system (the body’s defense against disease).

People with weakened immune systems are typically advised against receiving live vaccines. This is because on very rare occasions, live vaccines can mutate (change) back to the full-strength germ that causes a disease. If this happens, people with weakened immune systems would have a much higher risk for developing the disease that the vaccine is meant to prevent.

Zostavax is a different shingles vaccine that is live. If you’re unsure about which vaccine may be right for you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Shingrix as the preferred vaccine to prevent shingles and other complications from the disease. The CDC found that Shingrix was more effective than Zostavax. But ask your doctor or pharmacist which vaccine is right for you.

Drug forms and administration

Shingrix is given as an injection into the muscle (intramuscular), typically in your upper arm. You’ll receive two separate doses of the vaccine. After you receive the first dose, you can get the second dose two to six months later. A healthcare provider will give you the injections in your doctor’s office.

Zostavax is also given as an intramuscular injection, but it only requires one dose. A healthcare provider will give you the injection in your arm in your doctor’s office.

Side effects and risks

Shingrix and Zostavax cause similar responses in the body, so the two drugs have similar side effects. Below are examples of these side effects.

More common side effects

These lists contain examples of more common side effects than can occur with Shingrix, Zostavax, or with both drugs (when taken individually).

  • Can occur with Shingrix:
    • muscle pain
    • tiredness
    • nausea
    • dizziness
  • Can occur with Zostavax:
    • respiratory infections such as the common cold or flu
    • lack of energy
  • Can occur with both Shingrix and Zostavax:
    • pain, redness, itchiness, or swelling at the site of the injection
    • flu-like symptoms (such as fever and shivering)
    • headache
    • diarrhea

Serious side effects

These lists contain examples of serious side effects than can occur with Shingrix, Zostavax, or with both drugs (when taken individually).

  • Can occur with Shingrix:
    • few unique serious side effects
  • Can occur with Zostavax:
    • worsening asthma
    • aching and stiffness
    • shingles rash
  • Can occur with both Shingrix and Zostavax:
    • severe allergic reactions

Effectiveness

Shingrix and Zostavax haven’t been compared in clinical studies, but both are effective for preventing shingles (herpes zoster) in adults ages 50 and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Shingrix as the preferred vaccine for preventing shingles and other complications from the disease. The CDC found that Shingrix was more effective than Zostavax. But ask your doctor or pharmacist which vaccine is right for you.

Costs

The actual price you’ll pay for either Shingrix or Zostavax depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use. To find out what each drug may cost in your area, visit GoodRx.com.

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to suit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

Shingrix is given as an injection into the muscle (intramuscular), typically in your upper arm. You’ll receive two separate doses of the vaccine. Each dose contains 0.5 mL of vaccine solution.

Dosage for shingles prevention

Shingrix is given as two 0.5-mL injections in your upper arm. You receive the second dose two to six months after the first dose.

Over time, some vaccines’ protection begins to fade, so may you need booster doses. They help keep the vaccine working. But you don’t need a booster dose after getting the two doses of Shingrix.

What if I wait too long to take the second dose? Will I need to restart the vaccination process?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that if more than six months have passed since you received your first dose, you should get the second dose as soon as possible. You don’t have to start the doses all over again.

Also, if you get the second dose within four weeks after the first dose, it should not be counted. You should get the follow-up dose at least two months after the first dose.

There aren’t any specific warnings or guidelines about alcohol and Shingrix. If you have concerns about drinking alcohol and getting the Shingrix vaccine, talk with your doctor.

Shingrix can interact with several other medications.

Different interactions can cause different effects. For instance, some interactions can affect how well a drug works, while others can cause increased side effects.

Shingrix and other medications

Below are medications that can interact with Shingrix. These are not all the drugs that may interact with Shingrix.

Before taking Shingrix, be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisone

Taking Shingrix with drugs that suppress your immune system can cause problems with the way your body responds to Shingrix. Examples of immunosuppressive medications include:

  • corticosteroids, such as:
  • monoclonal antibodies, such as:
    • adalimumab (Humira)
    • etanercept (Enbrel)
    • rituximab (Rituxan)
  • other medications, such as:
    • azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
    • cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
    • methotrexate (Otrexup, Rasuvo, Rheumatrex, Trexall)
    • mycophenolate (CellCept, Myfortic)
    • tacrolimus (Astagraf XL, Envarsus XR, Prograf)
    • sirolimus (Rapamune)
    • tofacitinib (Xeljanz)

If you take any of these medications, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before getting Shingrix.

Shingrix and other vaccines

Shingrix is generally safe to use with or after administration of certain other vaccines. If you have concerns about whether other vaccines might interact with Shingrix, ask your doctor.

Shingrix after Zostavax

Studies such as this one from 2018 shown that the Zostavax vaccine can wear off over time. Because of this, you can get Shingrix even if you’ve already received Zostavax. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wait at least eight weeks after receiving Zostavax before you get Shingrix.

In a clinical study of adults ages 65 and older who had received Zostavax at least five years previously, Shingrix was shown to be safe and effective. No studies have tested Shingrix in people who received Zostavax within five years.

Shingrix and the flu shot

There is no evidence showing any negative effects from taking Shingrix together with the flu vaccine. According to a study of adults ages 50 and older, getting both the shingles and flu vaccines at the same time was safe. Also, it didn’t make either vaccine less effective.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves vaccines such as Shingrix to prevent certain conditions.

Shingrix for prevention of shingles

Shingrix is a vaccine that’s used to prevent shingles (herpes zoster) in adults ages 50 and older. It’s not approved for use in adults younger than 50. Also, it’s not meant for use in preventing chickenpox (varicella).

Effectiveness for prevention of shingles

Shingrix has been found to be effective in helping to prevent shingles. For details on how the drug performed in clinical studies, see Shingrix’s prescribing information.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Shingrix is the preferred vaccine for shingles. They recommend it for adults age 50 years and older without serious immune problems.

Your body responds to germs by making antibodies. These are proteins that fight off specific germs. Antibodies also help prevent future infections by remembering the germs so they can fight them off more quickly.

Vaccines are made from germs, or pieces of germs, that help your body imitate an actual disease. This prompts your body to create antibodies.

Shingrix introduces proteins from the shingles (herpes zoster) virus to your body. Your body responds by protecting itself from infection by the shingles virus. This is called an immune response.

How long does it take to work?

It takes time for your body to make enough antibodies to fight off germs and protect you from certain diseases.

Results from clinical studies of Shingrix showed that the recommended dosing schedule for Shingrix does cause an immune response. This dosing schedule states that after you receive the first dose, you should get the second dose two to six months later.

How long Shingrix takes to work may not be the same for everyone. The timing for you will depend on your body chemistry. In general, you should be protected from shingles soon after the second dose.

There haven’t been any studies in humans to know if it’s safe to get the Shingrix vaccine when you’re pregnant. Studies in animals showed that there was no risk with Shingrix during pregnancy. However, animal studies don’t always predict the way humans would respond.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, wait until after you’ve had your baby to get the Shingrix vaccine. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.

There haven’t been enough studies to show whether Shingrix appears in breast milk.

Until more is known, it’s best to wait until you’ve finished breastfeeding before getting Shingrix.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Shingrix.

I’m living with HIV. Is it safe for me to get Shingrix?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasn’t made a recommendation about the use of Shingrix in people living with HIV.

However, one study looked at healthy adults ages 18 and older who were living with HIV and had an HIV dosing schedule that was customized to their needs. These people received the Shingrix vaccine, and the study results did not report any safety issues.

If you’re living with HIV, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting Shingrix.

What’s the age range for getting the Shingrix vaccine?

Shingrix is approved for use in adults ages 50 and older. There’s no upper age limit for getting Shingrix, so there isn’t a set age range. Shingrix hasn’t been studied in people under age 50.

How safe is Shingrix?

The FDA has approved Shingrix for preventing shingles (herpes zoster) in adults ages 50 and older. The results of several studies showed that Shingrix was safe and effective.

There have been concerns about ingredients, such as thimerosal, that may be added to vaccines. Thimerosal is a kind of preservative that contains mercury. It’s added then taken out of some vaccines to keep other germs and bacteria from growing. The concern arose when early research connected thimerosal to autism. This link has since been found to be false. Shingrix doesn’t contain thimerosal.

Can I receive Shingrix if I have shingles or if I had shingles in the past?

The CDC doesn’t recommend the Shingrix vaccine for people who currently have shingles. It’s best to wait until your shingle rashes have gone away before you receive Shingrix.

But if you’re age 50 years or older and have had shingles in the past, you can take Shingrix. It may help prevent future shingles infections.

Can I get Shingrix if I’ve never had chickenpox?

If you’ve never had chickenpox (varicella), the CDC recommends that you get the chickenpox vaccine instead of Shingrix. Researchers haven’t studied Shingrix in people who have never had chickenpox. Shingrix is not approved for preventing chickenpox.

If you’re age 50 or older and can’t recall whether or not you’ve had chickenpox, you don’t need to be screened for it. It’s assumed that people born in the United States and elsewhere before 1980 have been exposed to chickenpox. Therefore, you may be able to receive Shingrix. You should check with your doctor first to make sure.

Can Shingrix cause a rash?

It’s unlikely that a Shingrix injection will cause a rash. But note that an injection site reaction is different from a shingles rash. (See “Injection site reactions” above.) A shingles rash, which is caused by shingles itself, is often painful. It commonly appears as blisters around the torso, neck, or face.

People who received Shingrix in clinical studies didn’t report shingles-like rashes. However, studies did find that some people had shingles-like rashes after receiving the Zostavax shingles vaccine. This is an alternative to Shingrix. (See the “Shingrix vs. Zostavax” section above to learn more.)

Before receiving Shingrix, talk with your doctor about your health history. Shingrix may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions. These include:

  • Allergic reactions to vaccines. People who have had allergic reactions to vaccines in the past may be at risk again for an allergic reaction to Shingrix. If you have had an allergic reaction to vaccines before, talk with your doctor and have them review your immunization history. You may need additional treatment and supervision to receive Shingrix.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.