Two vaccines may help prevent shingles â€” the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine and the shingles (varicella-zoster) vaccine.
The varicella virus vaccine (Varivax) has become a routine childhood immunization to prevent chickenpox. It's recommended for children between ages 12 months and 18 months. The vaccine is also recommended for older kids and adults who've never had chickenpox.
Though the chickenpox vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get chickenpox or shingles, it can reduce your chances of complications and reduce the severity of the disease.
The varicella-zoster vaccine (Zostavax) can help prevent shingles in adults age 60 and older who've had chickenpox. Like the chickenpox vaccine, the shingles vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get shingles. But this live vaccine will likely reduce the course and severity of the disease and reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia.
The shingles vaccine is recommended for all adults age 60 and older, whether or not they have had shingles previously. It's given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm. The shingles vaccine is only used as a prevention strategy, however. It's not intended to treat people who already have the disease. Common side effects include redness, pain and swelling at the needle site, itching and headache.
This shingles vaccine isn't recommended if you:
Have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine
Have a weakened immune system from HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects your immune system
Are receiving medical treatments such as steroids, radiation and chemotherapy
Have a history of bone marrow or lymphatic cancer
Have active, untreated tuberculosis
If you are mildly ill, such as with a cold, it's OK to get the vaccine. However, if you're moderately or severely ill, wait until you feel better before getting the vaccine.