When Can I Get A Shingles Shot?

When Can I Get A Shingles Shot?

What is Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is also the virus that causes chickenpox. If you have had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus is in your body and never completely, of fully, goes away. Once you have chickenpox, the virus is ‘inactive’ in the body, but can become ‘reactivated’ later in life, which presents as shingles. Shingles is most common in people over 50 years of age with weakened immune systems. Although shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox, it does not occur in ALL people who have had chickenpox.

Shingles travels and lives inside of nerve cells, which run along areas of the skin called ‘dermatomes’. When shingles is reactivated, the rash appears along the dermatomes and has very characteristic signs and symptoms.

What causes Shingles to become reactivated?

It is unknown what causes shingles to become reactivated. Doctors do not know how or why the reactivation occurs, but it is believed that your body’s immune system becomes weaker over time to the varicella-zoster virus. This happens over the many years and decades after childhood chickenpox. Eventually, the symptoms of shingles appear.

When can I get a Shingles Shot?

Luckily, there is a vaccination for adults to reduce the risk of shingles. It is recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that healthy adults over 50 years of age get two doses of Shingrix (vaccination for shingles). The doses for Shingrix are given 6 months apart. Patients who receive the vaccination may experience mild side effects. Whether you have had chickenpox or not, you should still receive 2 doses of Shingrix. Additionally, if you have already had shingles, you should still receive 2 doses of Shingrix. In summary, all healthy adults over 50 years of age (regardless of history of chickenpox or history of shingles) should get two doses of Shingrix.


  • Shingles Overview:
  • Caused by varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
  • Virus remains inactive but can reactivate, leading to shingles.
  • More common in people over 50, especially with weakened immune systems.
  • Reactivation Cause:
  • Unknown trigger for reactivation; weakening immune system over time is a suspected factor.
  • Rash appears along specific nerve cell paths (dermatomes) during reactivation.
  • Shingles Shot Timing:
  • Shingrix vaccine recommended for healthy adults over 50.
  • Two doses, 6 months apart, regardless of chickenpox or shingles history.
  • Vaccination reduces shingles risk, with mild side effects possible.

This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.

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