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Herpes Zoster Vaccine

By William D. Surkis, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine; Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Jefferson Medical College; Lankenau Medical Center
Jerome Santoro, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine; Chief, Department of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College; Lankenau Medical Center

For more information, see the Shingles vaccine information statement.

The herpes zoster vaccine contains live, weakened (attenuated) virus. The vaccine helps reduce the risk of shingles(herpes zoster) and the severe residual pain it can cause (postherpetic neuralgia).

The herpes zoster virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox resolves, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated years later and cause shingles, which is a painful rash, usually on only one part of the body. The rash resolves after several weeks, but postherpetic neuralgia, which causes severe chronic pain, can last for months or years. Herpes zoster can also increase the risk of having a stroke and other problems due to malfunction of the nervous system (such as problems with vision, hearing, or balance).

The herpes zoster vaccine is the same as the chickenpox vaccine but contains a larger amount of live virus.


The herpes zoster vaccine is given in one dose as an injection under the skin.

It is recommended for people aged 60 and over.

Side Effects

Rarely, the injection site becomes sore.