What Is the Shingles Vaccine Used For?
The shingles vaccine is used for preventing shingles in people 50 years old and older. The vaccine, which contains a live but weakened version of the varicella-zoster virus, works by stimulating the immune system to respond to the virus in the vaccine. At this time, there are no universally accepted off-label shingles vaccine uses.
The shingles vaccine (Zostavax®) is a vaccine used in people age 50 and older to help prevent shingles.
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is caused by a virus (the varicella-zoster virus). It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Most people are infected with this virus as chickenpox when they are children. The body never completely gets rid of the virus, and the virus remains inactive in certain nerve cells in the body. Later in life, often triggered by stress or illness, the virus can become active again, causing shingles.
Symptoms of shingles may include a rash (usually on only one side of the body) and burning or tingling pain. Usually, the rash forms blisters that may break and ooze. If this happens, you may be able to spread the "shingles virus" to people who have never had chickenpox. Shingles pain can be very severe. This pain can continue long after the rash is gone (which is known medically as postherpetic neuralgia).
(Click Shingles Symptoms for more information about the possible signs and symptoms of shingles.)
The shingles vaccine is used to help prevent shingles. Like most vaccines, it is not 100 percent effective at preventing shingles. However, people who have had the shingles vaccine but still develop a case of shingles are less likely to develop certain complications of shingles, such as scarring or postherpetic neuralgia. The shingles vaccine is not approved to prevent chickenpox or treat an active case of shingles or postherpetic neuralgia. Although studies of the shingles vaccine did not include people who had already had shingles in the past, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that eligible individuals should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they have had shingles in the past.