Frequently Asked Questions about the Shingles Vaccine

shinglesIf you’ve seen the commercials promoting the shingles vaccine, they may have caused you a little apprehension. They definitely show just how painful a case of shingles can be. Seniors and their caregivers are probably wondering whether or not they should ask their doctor for the vaccine. To help answer some of the common questions about shingles, we’ve researched the topic to share in this week’s update.

Shingles Vaccine Q&A

Q: What is shingles? 

A: Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). It is the same virus that causes the chickenpox. It is a very painful skin rash that can cause blisters, fever, chills, headaches, and stomach problems.

Q: How common is shingles?

 A: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. It is most common in adults over the age of 60. If you received the chickenpox vaccine as a child or if you’ve ever had chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles.

 Q: How do you know if you should get the vaccine?

 A: Talk with your doctor to be sure, but the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued a recommendation in 2006 that advises people over the age of 60 to have the vaccine.

 Q: Are there any people who should NOT have a vaccine?

 A: The CDC guidelines on those who shouldn’t have a vaccine are:

  • A person who has ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of the shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
  • A person who has a weakened immune system because of
    • HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • Treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids
    • Cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy
    • Cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • Women who are or might be pregnant

Q: Can you get shingles more than once?

 A: It is possible to get shingles more than one time. However, most people who have it once do not get it again. If you are concerned about a reoccurrence, the vaccine can help prevent you from having it again.

Q: How long does the vaccine last?

 A: This is a vaccine that you only need once in a lifetime.

 Q: Will Medicare pay for the shingles vaccine?

 A: Medicare Part D covers the shingles vaccine. Depending on which type of plan you have (if you have a Medicare Advantage plan), you may be responsible for a co-pay.


If you have more questions about the vaccine, visit What You Need to Know About Shingles and the Shingles Vaccine. You can download an information sheet that covers topics ranging from side effects of the vaccine to complications caused by the shingles virus.