From 1 April 2018, the Zostavax immunisation will be fully subsidised for adults turning 65 years, with a two year catch-up period for those aged 66 to 80 years (until 31 December 2020).
Zostavax is for the prevention of herpes zoster (shingles) and the reduction of acute and chronic zoster-associated pain in older adults. Zostavax approximately halves the incidence of herpes zoster and reduces the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia by two-thirds in adults aged 60 years and over.
Herpes zoster (shingles) typically presents as a painful rash on one side of the body or face (in the dermatomal distribution of the affected nerve). It is caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster (chicken pox) virus, which remains latent in nerve cells for many years after the initial infection, until immunity to the virus wanes with age or is otherwise compromised.
Older people are most likely to develop complications from shingles, such as post-herpetic neuralgia (a burning or shooting pain, itch, numbness, tingling, or hypersensitivity to touch or temperature in the region of the rash which can last for months to years).
Can I get the vaccine if I am not sure if I have had chickenpox?
Vaccination is appropriate regardless of whether you have had varicella zoster (chickenpox) or previous shingles.
How soon after shingles should I wait to get a vaccination?
Consider delaying vaccination by at least one year if you have had a recent episode of shingles as you will have increased immunity to the virus after shingles.
Can I get Zostavax with other vaccines?
Zostavax can be administered at the same time as other vaccines, including seasonal influenza, tetanus/diphtheria and Pneumovax23.
Who should not get Zostavax?
The Zostavax immunisation is contraindicated in people with significant immunosuppression (please check with your doctor).
Can I get Zostavax if I am younger than 65 years or older than 80 years?
Vaccination may be considered for people aged under 65 years. Zostavax is currently approved for adults aged 50 years and older. Although not subsidised, some patients aged under 65 years may consider vaccination, particularly if they are at increased risk of shingles, e.g. with other conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease or autoimmune disease. There is no clinical reason not to vaccinate people aged under 50 years, except that the original studies on Zostavax did not include younger age groups and herpes zoster is less common in younger people.
It is not significantly effective for the prevention of herpes zoster in people aged 80 years and older.
I have had a Zostavax vaccine, should I get a booster dose?
Booster doses of Zostavax are not currently recommended. However, Zostavax efficacy decreases over time. Studies have shown that Zostavax significantly reduces the risk of herpes zoster for up to eight years. Adults who are eligible to receive a funded dose of Zostavax may still receive this if they have previously purchased Zostavax.
Will the chickenpox vaccine protect me from shingles?
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccines do not prevent herpes zoster.
Are there any side effects to vaccination?
Common responses to vaccination are injection site reactions, such as pain, redness, swelling, itch or rash and headache
For further information go to the Immunisation Advisory Centre website: