Healthy living

Shingles vaccine

  • Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect you from serious disease caused by shingles (herpes zoster)
  • The risk of getting shingles and neurological complications increases with age.
  • 2 doses of the Shingrix® zoster vaccine is free for eligible people. It is important to receive both doses for the best protection.

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering rash. It is a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Almost all adults are at risk of developing shingles, as more than 95% of Australians over the age of 30 has been infected with chickenpox (the varicella-zoster virus). It is estimated that 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime. As a person gets older the risk of getting shingles and neurological complications increases.

Who should have the shingles vaccine?

If you are over 50, talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 50 and the vaccine is free to those certain people most at risk of complications from shingles. See ‘Who is the vaccine provided free for?’ for who can get the vaccine for free.

Who is the vaccine provided free for?

The Shingrix® vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program (external site) for eligible people. A 2-dose course of Shingrix® will be available for:

  • Aboriginal people aged 50 years or over
  • people aged 65 years and over, and
  • immunocompromised people aged 18 years or over with certain medical risk conditions.  

While the Shingrix® vaccine is free, your immunisation provider may charge a consultation fee for the visit.

Check with your immunisation provider for advice and if you are eligible.

How and where can I get vaccinated?

The shingles vaccine is currently given as a needle and is available at your community health immunisation clinics and at participating general practices, community pharmacists and Aboriginal Medical Services.

Not all these immunisation providers will have the free Shingrix® vaccines so it’s best to call ahead and check. If you are not eligible to receive the free Shingrix® vaccine, talk to your doctor about your needs and whether you can buy it privately. You may need a prescription. Talk to your local immunisation provider to find out how much it will cost.

Can I get the Shingrix® vaccine if I’ve already received Zostavax®?

You are able to receive Shingrix® even if your previous dose/s was Zostavax® but there are some conditions:

  • people who have already received a free Zostavax® shingles vaccine can’t get a free Shingrix® vaccine for at least 5 years after they have had Zostavax®
  • people who have already received Zostavax® vaccine privately can receive Shingrix® free under the program if they are eligible. An interval of at least 12 months is recommended between receiving Zostavax® and a subsequent dose of Shingrix®. A 2-dose schedule of Shingrix® will still need to be completed.
How many vaccine doses do I need

2 doses of the Shingrix® vaccine are recommended and free for eligible people. It is important to receive both doses for the best protection. For most people, the 2 doses of Shingrix® vaccine are given 2 to 6 months apart. For people with weakened immune systems, the two doses are given 1 to 2 months apart.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had shingles?

Vaccination is still recommended for those who have had shingles infection in the past. However, you should wait at least 12 months between an episode of shingles and having the vaccine. Discuss this with your doctor or other immunisation provider.

As the risk of further infection is higher in immunocompromised people (people with weakened immune systems), Shingrix® can be given from 3 months after illness.

Is the shingles vaccine safe and effective?

Yes. Shingrix® vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing shingles and severe complications.

It does not contain any live virus so it can be given to people 18 years and older who are immunocompromised.

Can I receive the shingles vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

Shingrix® can be given at the same time as other ‘inactivated’ vaccines such as tetanus-containing vaccines, pneumococcal vaccines, influenza (flu) vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines. However, it is best to have it by itself, if possible, to reduce the risk of mild to moderate side effects. Talk to your doctor or other immunisation provider for advice

Are there any side effects from the vaccine

The vaccine is safe. Shingrix® creates a strong defence against shingles and can cause temporary side effects. These reactions are generally mild and disappear in a few days. These can include pain where the needle went in, redness and swelling, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, fever and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Certain people may experience moderate side effects, e.g. those with a very weakened immune system. Talk to yourimmunisation provider for advice. Learn more about the possible side effects of vaccination and how to manage them. 

For further advice on contraindications to shingles vaccination:

How do I report an adverse event (reactions)?

The Western Australian Vaccine Safety Surveillance (WAVSS) system is the central reporting service in WA for any significant adverse events following immunisation.

If you have experienced an adverse event (reaction) to a vaccine:

Where to get help

For more information on the national shingles program, visit the Australian Department of Health website (external site).

Last reviewed: 01-11-2023

Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Where can I get my vaccine?