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Facts About...

SHINGLES VACCINE (Zostavax® II)


What is it?

Zostavax® II is a live, attenuated virus vaccine. This vaccine is used to provide protection from shingles (also known as herpes zoster). Zostavax® II is currently the only vaccine licensed for use in Canada for the prevention of shingles.

How effective is the shingles vaccine?

The vaccine is safe and effective for the prevention of shingles and its complications. Studies have shown that the vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 51.3% and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia (the most common complication of shingles) by 66.5%. The vaccine’s effectiveness decreases considerably after 70 years of age. Protection from the vaccine lasts at least 5 to 7 years.

Who should receive the vaccine?

A single dose of the vaccine can be given to those with or without prior history of shingles. The vaccine should be given at least one year following the last episode of shingles.

The vaccine is routinely recommended for adults 60 years of age and older although it may be given to adults 50 to 59 years of age without contraindications.

The vaccine is free for individuals ages 65 to 70 years of age (i.e., from their 65th birthday to the day prior to the 71st birthday).
Note: Individuals born in 1945 (i.e., those who have turned or will be turning 71 years of age in 2016), will be eligible for one free dose of the vaccine through until December 31, 2016. After December 31, 2016, only those aged 65 to 70 years will be eligible to receive the vaccine for free.

Are there side effects with the vaccine?

The most common side effects of receiving the shingles vaccine are mild and include:

  • Injection site pain/bruising
  • Swelling/redness at injection site
  • Itching, hard lump at injection site
  • Headache

Please see the product monograph for a complete list of reported site effects.

Who should NOT get the vaccine?

The Zostavax® II vaccine should not be given to:

  • Individuals with weakened immune systems due to: acute and chronic leukemias; lymphoma; other conditions affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system; or immunosuppression due to HIV/AIDS
  • Individuals on immunosuppressive therapy (including high-dose corticosteroids)
  • Individuals with a history of severe reaction after previous administration of the vaccine
  • Individuals with proven hypersensitivity to any component of the vaccine or its container, including gelatin or neomycin
  • Individuals with active untreated tuberculosis
  • Individuals who are pregnant
  • Individuals who currently have shingles
  • Those who have recently had shingles should wait at least one year before receiving the vaccine

If you have any medical conditions, discuss the vaccine with a health care provider to determine if you should receive it.

September 15, 2016