Vaccination menu links

Shingles vaccine

A vaccine to prevent shingles, a common, painful disease is available through the NHS in Wales to people aged:

  • 65 (on or after 1 September 2023);
  • 70 to 79 and
  • 50 years and over who are severely immunosuppressed (have a very weakened immune system because of a health condition or medical treatment).

Most people will remain eligible for the vaccine until their 80th birthday. However, if you have a severely weakened immune system, the vaccine can be given from age 50 up to any age.

The shingles vaccine is given as an injection in the upper arm. Unlike the flu vaccine, as long as you complete the recommended course you'll only need to have it once in your lifetime.  You can have the shingles vaccine at any time of the year.

The shingles vaccine is expected to reduce your risk of getting shingles. If you do go on to have shingles following the vaccination, your symptoms may be milder and the illness shorter. The vaccine helps to reduce the chances of having long term pain afterwards.

Shingles can be very painful and uncomfortable. Some people are left with pain lasting for months or longer after the initial rash has healed.

If you have already had shingles it is fine to have the shingles vaccine however, if you have had shingles 2 or more times in one year then you should talk to you GP or Practice Nurse before having  the vaccine.

What is shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in people who have previously had chickenpox.

It usually begins with a tingling or burning sensation in the skin, followed by a rash of very painful fluid-filled blisters that can then burst and turn into sores before healing. Often an area on just one side of the body is affected, usually the chest but sometimes the head, face and eye.

Read more about the symptoms of shingles.

Who can have the shingles vaccination?

From September 2023 people in Wales became eligible on their 65th and 70th birthday, they remain eligible up until their 80th birthday. Anyone aged 70-79 is already eligible for the shingles vaccine.

The shingles vaccine is licensed for use from 50 years of age and some people aged 18 and over who are at increased risk. These people may be offered the vaccine if considered appropriate following individual assessment by a medical prescriber.

Read more about who can have the shingles vaccine.

What shingles vaccinations are available?

There are two shingles vaccines available: Zostavax and Shingrix.

Zostavax contains a weakened version of the live shingles virus. Shingrix is an inactivated recombinant vaccine.

How is the shingles vaccine given?

A small injection into the upper arm.

Most people have their shingles vaccine at their GP surgery.

How safe is the shingles vaccine?

Like all licensed vaccines, the shingles vaccines have been thoroughly tested and meet strict UK safety and licensing requirements.

Both vaccines have been used extensively in Europe and north America for the last few years.

Read more about shingles vaccine side effects.

How is shingles spread?

Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. It's estimated that around one in five people who have had chickenpox go on to develop shingles at some time.

Unlike other infectious diseases, you don’t catch shingles from someone else. When you recover from chickenpox, most of the virus is destroyed, but some can stay in your body for the rest of your life without you knowing it is there.  

The virus can become active again later in life and cause shingles. This generally happens when the immune system is weakened by things such as age, illness, stress, or medication.

People with shingles should try to avoid pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before, people with a weakened immune system (for example, someone having chemotherapy) and babies less than one month old.

Read more about the causes of shingles.

Who's most at risk of shingles?

People tend to get shingles more often when their immune system isn't working so well, this happens as we get older. Shingles is more common and more severe the older you are.

The pain of shingles can  continue for some time after the rash has disappeared, even for many years. This pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) which is a particularly unpleasant condition with severe burning, throbbing or stabbing nerve pain.

Read more about the complications of shingles.

Read the answers to some of the common questions about the shingles vaccine.


Last Updated: 17/02/2022 16:07:44
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website