The vaccine

The shingles vaccine’s given as a one-off injection and helps to protect against shingles, which is caused by a virus called varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

What vaccine’s used?

The Zostavax vaccine’s routinely used in Scotland.

How effective is the vaccine?

The vaccine will reduce your chances of developing shingles by more than a third. If you do go on to have shingles, the symptoms will be milder and won’t last as long as they would have if you hadn’t been immunised.

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 could still get it again. The vaccine will reduce your risk of getting shingles again.

Are there any reasons why I shouldn’t have the vaccine?

You shouldn’t have the shingles vaccine if you:

  • have a weakened immune system (for example due to certain cancer treatments, blood disorders such as leukaemia or lymphoma, taking steroid tablets or you’ve had a transplant) – if you think this may apply, discuss this with your hospital specialist or GP
  • have had a severe reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine or to a previous dose of the chickenpox vaccine

Most medications can be taken at the same time as the shingles vaccine. Your GP will tell you whether any of this applies to you and can discuss any concerns.

Does the shingles vaccine contain pork (porcine) gelatine?

The shingles vaccine contains a small trace of pork gelatine. Gelatine’s a common and essential ingredient in many medicines, including some vaccines.

Many faith groups, including Muslim and Jewish communities, have approved the use of gelatine-containing vaccines. It is, however, an individual choice whether or not to receive the shingles vaccine and we recognise that there’ll be different opinions within different communities.

Currently, there’s no alternative shingles vaccine that doesn’t contain pork gelatine.

How do we know the vaccine’s safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). 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 by the MHRA.

Read more about Shingles