Like most vaccines, the shingles vaccine is not 100 percent effective at preventing shingles. Studies have shown than overall, giving the vaccine to people age 50 years and older reduces the chance of shingles by about 50 percent. Like most vaccines, the shingles vaccine is less effective when given to older individuals whose immune systems are less able to produce a response. In people 60 to 69 years old, the shingles vaccine prevented 64 percent of cases of shingles, while in people over the age of 80 years old, the drug prevented only 18 percent of shingles cases.
Even when the vaccine does not prevent shingles, it seems to reduce the complications that can occur from a case of shingles, such as chronic pain ("postherpetic neuralgia"), scarring, vision problems, and other problems.
General considerations for when and how to get the shingles vaccine include the following:
- The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection, just under the skin of the upper arm.
- It does not matter if you receive your shingles vaccine injection on a full or empty stomach.
- The shingles vaccine has been studied to help prevent shingles for up to four years. At this time, it is not known if "booster" vaccines will be necessary.
- If your healthcare provider recommends it, you may get your flu vaccine at the same visit.
- Let your healthcare provider know if you are sick or not feeling well before the vaccine, as it may be best to postpone it until you are feeling better.
There is only one standard way to dose the shingles vaccine, regardless of your age, weight, or medical conditions.
As always, do not adjust your dose unless your healthcare provider specifically instructs you to do so.
(Click Shingles Vaccine Dosing for more information.)