Why should I have the shingles vaccine?
Shingles can be very painful and is more common among older people. The older you are, the worse it can be. For some, the pain caused by shingles can last for many years.
People who have a severely weakened immune system are also at higher risk of getting shingles and experiencing further complications from it.
Every year in Scotland, around 400 people aged 70 and over will be hospitalised due to shingles and related complications.
The shingles vaccine helps to build up your immunity to the virus. This means, if you do get shingles, your body will fight it off more easily.
Getting the recommended 2 doses of the vaccine will:
- reduce your risk of developing shingles by over 70%
- reduce your risk of experiencing long-term pain from shingles
- reduce your risk of being hospitalised with complications from shingles
What is shingles?
Shingles is caused by a virus called varicella zoster. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. When you recover from chickenpox most of this virus is destroyed, but some of the virus survives and lies inactive in your body’s nervous system.
The virus can then become active again later in life. This normally happens when your immune system has been weakened by:
- certain treatments that can reduce your immunity
The shingles vaccine helps to protect you by boosting your immunity.
One in four adults develop shingles and one in five people with shingles go on to develop longer-lasting pain.
Who is eligible for the shingles vaccine?
You’ll be offered the shingles vaccine if you were aged 65 or 70 on 1 September 2023.
If you're not sure if your eligible, you can use the age eligibility calculator to check.
You're also eligible to get the vaccine if you:
- are aged 71-79 and have not previously had the vaccine
- have a severely weakened immune system and are aged 50 or over
- are about to start immunosuppressive therapy and are aged 50 or over
- have received a stem cell transplant and are aged 18 or over
- are having or have had CAR-T therapy and are aged 18 or over
Why are people aged 66-69 years not eligible for the vaccine this year?
If you are currently aged 66 to 69 years, you will not be eligible for the vaccine until you turn 70.
In 2028, the shingles vaccine will also be offered to everyone aged 60. This offer is being phased in to ensure that NHS Scotland can deliver the programme effectively alongside other immunisation programmes. From 2033, the shingles vaccine will be offered routinely to everyone aged 60. Once you have become eligible, you will remain eligible for the shingles vaccine until your 80th birthday.
This phased roll-out is based on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). When any vaccination programme is introduced, recommendations are made about who will be offered the vaccine and when they will be invited to come forward. These decisions are based on a combination of factors including the risk of the disease and the effectiveness of the vaccine in different age groups.
Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've never had chickenpox?
Yes. The chances are that you may have had chickenpox at some point without knowing it. Some people have chickenpox without displaying any of the typical chickenpox symptoms.
Do I need the shingles vaccine if I've had shingles before?
Yes. Even if you've already had shingles, you should still get it again. The vaccine will reduce your risk of getting shingles again.
Are there any reasons I shouldn't have the shingles vaccine?
You shouldn't have the shingles vaccine if you've had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to:
- any of the ingredients in the vaccine
- a previous dose of the chickenpox vaccine
What vaccine will be offered?
From September 2023, the Shingrix vaccine will be used in Scotland.
You can view the vaccine ingredients in the Shingrix patient information leaflet.
Does the shingles vaccine contain pork (porcine) gelatine?
No, the shingles vaccine used in Scotland from September 2023 onwards does not contain pork (porcine) gelatine.
Is the shingles vaccine a live vaccine?
No, the shingles vaccine is not a live vaccine. It cannot cause shingles.
How many doses of the vaccine do I need?
You need to have 2 doses of the shingles vaccine for it to be effective.
You'll be offered your second dose 2 to 12 months after your first dose.
How do we know the vaccine is safe?
The shingles vaccination programme was introduced in Scotland in 2013.
All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness. The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.
Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored.
How do I get the shingles vaccine?
You'll be contacted by your local health board when you're eligible to be immunised. You can get the vaccine at any time of the year.
Can the shingles vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines?
Speak to a healthcare professional about getting other vaccines at the same time. They'll advise what's best for you.
What are the side effects of this vaccine?
Side effects are usually quite mild and don’t last very long.
Around the injection site you might experience:
You may also experience:
- muscle pain
- tiredness (fatigue)
- a fever
- a general unwell feeling
- a headache
- nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
- stomach pain
Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP practice if:
- you have side effects that last for more than a few days
Where can I report side effects?
You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.
This can be done by:
- visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
- phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)