The best way to prevent shingles and PHN is by getting the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults age 60 years and older get the vaccine. This vaccine contains live virus. It is safe for people with long-term health problems. Even people who have had shingles before can get the vaccine. For those who have had shingles, it is best to wait until the rash has cleared before getting the vaccine. A single dose is recommended. Zostavax is the only shingles vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Some people should not get the vaccine. The shingles vaccine should not be given to pregnant women or women who are trying to become pregnant within 1 month.
Other groups who should not get the shingles vaccine include those who:
Your health plan may or may not cover the vaccine. This vaccine is covered under Medicare Part D.
In a clinical trial involving more than 38,000 adults, the shingles vaccine was administered to about half of the study participants. The other half received a placebo. The prevalence of serious adverse events was similar in the vaccine and placebo groups (1.9% and 1.3%, respectively). One case of anaphylaxis occurred in the placebo group. No vaccine-related deaths were reported. The most commonly reported side effects were erythema (36%), pain or tenderness (35%), swelling (26%), and pruritis (7%) at the injection site.
Transmission of the zoster (shingles) vaccine-associated virus has never been documented. Persons having close household or occupational contact with persons at risk for severe varicella need not take any precautions after receiving zoster vaccine except in rare instances in which a varicella-like rash develops, when standard contact precautions are adequate. Although transmission of Oka/Merck strain VZV has been documented following varicella vaccination, such transmission is rare and has only been documented when the vaccine recipient first developed a varicella-like rash. Rates of varicella-like rash appear to be less common following zoster vaccination than following varicella vaccination, and transmission of the Oka/Merck strain VZV from recipients of zoster vaccine has not been detected.
For more information on herpes zoster vaccine safety, visit CDC's webpage Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccine Safety