Shingles is a viral infection that develops due to the varicella-zoster virus. The vaccine for shingles, called Shingrix, provides protection for at least 7 years. How effective it is can vary depending on a person’s age and immune system.

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash with blisters that can occur anywhere on the body.

About 1 in 3 Americans will develop shingles.

This article discusses how long the shingles vaccine lasts and when a person should get it. It also looks at who should and should not get the vaccine, side effects to expect, and how to pay for the vaccine.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Shringrix offers strong protection against shingles for at least 7 years after a person receives the vaccination.

How effective is it?

Shingrix protects against both shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN is a common complication of shingles. It causes severe nerve pain long after the rash has cleared.

Provided a person receives both doses of the vaccine, it is:

  • 97% effective in preventing shingles in those aged 50–69 years
  • 91% effective in preventing shingles in those aged 70 years and above
  • 68–91% effective in preventing shingles in those with weakened immune systems

It is also 91% effective in preventing PHN in those aged 50 years and over, and 89% effective in those aged 70 years and over.

The risk of developing a shingles infection increases with age. Therefore, the CDC recommends that people aged 50 years and older get the vaccine.

People aged 19 years and older who have health conditions or take medication that can weaken the immune system should consider getting the vaccine before they are 50 years old.

The shingles vaccine consists of two doses. After the first dose, a person will receive the second dose 2–6 months later.

However, people with immunodeficiencies benefit from completing the treatment in a shorter time frame and should get the second vaccine 1–2 months after the first dose.

While some people who have had chickenpox may develop shingles, not all will.

The CDC says that all adults aged 50 years and above and those with weakened immune systems should get the shingles vaccine regardless of whether they have had shingles.

The following people should get the vaccine:

  • those who have previously had shingles or chickenpox
  • those who received the vaccine for chickenpox
  • those who received a discontinued version of the chickenpox vaccine called Zostavax

The shingles vaccine is not a good fit for everybody at all times. People should not get the vaccine if they:

  • currently have shingles
  • are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • have ever had an allergy to any components of the shingles vaccine

People who have a mild cold are able to get the vaccine. However, those with moderate or severe illness, either with or without fever, should not get the vaccine until they are well.

Shingrix can help lower the risk of developing shingles and reduce the severity of symptoms.

In addition, early treatment may shorten the duration of the infection and reduce the chance of complications such as PHN.

Common side effects of the vaccine include:

  • soreness in the arm
  • inflammation and swelling at the injection site
  • muscle pain
  • tiredness
  • shivering
  • fever
  • stomach pain
  • nausea

Learn more about the side effects of the shingles vaccine.

There are several ways to pay for a shingles vaccine. These include:

  • Medicare
  • private health insurance
  • Medicaid

Medicare

Although Medicare Part A and Part B do not cover the cost of the shingles vaccine, Medicare Part D does.

Learn more about the shingles vaccine and Medicare.

Private health insurance

Private insurance plans may cover the cost of the Shingrix. However, a person should contact their insurance provider to find out how much it might cost.

Medicaid

Medicaid may cover the cost of the vaccine. However, this may vary from state to state.

The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about Shingrix.

How does the Shingrix work?

The shingles vaccine contains inactivated pieces of the virus, allowing the body to build immunity to the disease. In addition, it stimulates the body’s immune system to produce more antibodies without causing illness.

The presence of more antibodies helps the body confront the virus and keep the infection at bay. The vaccine also contains molecules that improve the body’s immune response to be stronger and last longer.

This process helps the body build immunity against the virus and lowers the risk of shingles-related complications such as PHN.

Can a person get shingles after vaccination?

Although the shingles vaccine provides strong protection, it is still possible to get shingles after being vaccinated.

Can a person get shingles if they have had the chickenpox vaccine?

Although it is rare, it is possible to develop shingles even if they have had the chicken pox vaccine. This typically happens years after receiving the chickenpox vaccine.

This is because the same virus that causes chickenpox also causes shingles. However, those who have had the chicken pox vaccine are less likely to develop shingles compared to those who have had chicken pox.

The shingles vaccine provides strong protection from shingles and PNH for approximately 7 years.

People should aim to get the vaccine if they are aged 50 years or above with a healthy immune system or 19 years and above with a weakened immune system.

People will require two vaccine doses to receive the best protection against the infection.

Medicare part D will cover the cost of the vaccine. Medicaid may also cover the cost of the vaccine, but this can vary from state to state.