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Did you know?

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.

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.
  • 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 fluid from the shingles blisters.
  • 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 those with immune systems weakened by medication or disease.
  • Rare complications of shingles include pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), loss of hearing or vision, scarring, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) or death.

The vaccines

Zostavax II 

  • Zostavax II is recommended for people 60 years of age and older, however anyone 50 years of age and older can get the vaccine.
  • Only one dose is needed for protection.
  • The vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by 50%.
  • This vaccine is not provided for free in B.C.  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 insurance provider. 
  • You can find more information about this vaccine in the HealthLinkBC File: Shingles Vaccine


  • Shingrix is a new shingles vaccine that has been approved for use in Canada in adults 50 years of age and older.
  • Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has not yet made a recommendation for the use of the Shingrix vaccine in Canada. If you are interested in getting this vaccine, it is recommended that you speak with your health care provider for more information.
  • The vaccine is given as a series of 2 doses, 2 to 6 months apart.
  • It has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by more than 90%.
  • Shingrix is not a live vaccine and can be given to people with weakened immune systems.
  • This vaccine is not provided for free in B.C. It costs about $150/dose and is available for purchase from some pharmacies and travel clinics. Call ahead to ask about availability.
  • You can also find more information about the Shingrix vaccine on the US CDC site, which includes recommendations for use in the US.  


Date last updated: 
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017