Vaccine Brand: Shingrix®
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates in our body. Our immune system naturally gets weaker as we get older, are on certain medications or under a lot of stress. The virus can become active, causing shingles. An estimated one in three people will get shingles in their lifetime.
Shingles occurs most often among older adults and those with a weakened immune system. Symptoms include headache, fever and a painful rash that usually occurs on one side of the body such as the face, neck or chest. The rash forms blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that form a crust, and usually clears up within two to four weeks. About one in five people who get shingles may have severe pain that lasts months to years after the rash has cleared, a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Shingrix® is the vaccine for shingles that is approved by Health Canada and used in Ontario. This vaccine is free through primary health care providers for seniors ages 65 to 70 years old who have not previously received a shingles vaccine. Shingrix® is given as a series of two doses, two to six months apart.
Anyone who is not eligible to get it for free, can purchase the vaccine privately. It can cost about $150/dose. Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the vaccine. Check with your provider to learn about your coverage options.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends two doses of Shingrix® for anyone ages 50 years and older who does not have allergies to any ingredients in the vaccine.
NACI is currently reviewing changes to the Shingrix® vaccine for use in adults ages 18 years and older who are at increased risk of shingles due to having a very weak immune system.
Getting vaccinated with Shingrix® is the best way to protect against shingles and PHN. The vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of getting shingles by more than 90%.
The vaccine is generally well tolerated. Common reactions to the vaccine include headache as well as soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Other reactions that may occur after getting the vaccine include fever, muscle soreness, fatigue, shivering, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The vaccine is safe and very rarely is an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) reported. If you have symptoms such as hives, wheezy breathing, swelling around the mouth or throat, seek immediate medical care. It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.