About the vaccine

Did you know?

Shingles can cause severe and very hard-to-treat pain that may last months or years.

The shingles vaccine protects against herpes zoster, more commonly referred to as shingles. Shingles are caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.

The shingles vaccine is the best way to prevent shingles.  The vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by 50%.  For those who still get shingles after being immunized, the vaccine can reduce pain, including the type of pain that lingers after shingles.

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get shingles.

Who should get the vaccine?

The shingles vaccine is recommended for people 60 years of age and older, however anyone 50 years of age and older can get the vaccine. Only 1 dose is needed for protection.

The shingles vaccine is not publicly funded (free) in BC.  You can buy the shingles vaccine at most travel clinics and pharmacies for about $200.  Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the vaccine; check with your provider. If you buy the vaccine at a travel clinic, a doctor or nurse on site will be able to immunize you. Most pharmacists in B.C. are also able to immunize.  If you want to be immunized by your doctor, find out if they have a supply of the shingles vaccine.

For more information about the shingles vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the Shingles Vaccine HealthLink BC File.

About the disease

Shingles is a painful skin rash with blisters. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. In some people who have had chickenpox, the virus becomes active again later in life and causes shingles. About 1 out of 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime.

  • Shingles is more common in people over 50 years of age or in people with immune systems weakened by medication or disease. Shingles usually appears as a rash on one side of the face or body. The rash may last for 2 to 4 weeks
  • People may experience pain, itching or tingling of the skin before the rash appears.
  • Other early symptoms of shingles include fever, headache, nausea, and chills
  • The most common symptom of shingles is pain, which can be severe
  • About 1 in 5 people who get shingles may have severe pain that lasts months to years after the rash has cleared. This is known as post-herpetic neuralgia
  • Rare complications of shingles include pneumonia, loss of hearing or vision, scarring, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or death
  • You cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles. However, it is possible for someone who has not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine to get chickenpox from someone with shingles. This is uncommon and requires direct contact with the shingles rash.