Skip to main content

Shingles vaccine

Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus which causes chicken pox.

On this page



Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus which causes chickenpox. Unlike other infectious diseases, you don’t catch it from someone else. Most people had chickenpox when they were young. The virus that caused chickenpox can stay in your body for the rest of your life without you knowing it is there. The virus can then become active again later in life. It is not known exactly why it does this, but most cases are thought to be caused by having lowered immunity (protection against infections and diseases), which may be due to age, illness, stress or medication. 

Shingles is caused when a nerve and the area of skin around it becomes re-infected by the virus, resulting in clusters of painful, itchy, fluid-filled blisters. The fluid from these blisters can spread chickenpox to those who have not had it. 

If you have shingles, try to avoid: 

  • pregnant women who have not had chickenpox before 

  • people with a weakened immune system (for example, people having chemotherapy), and 

  • babies less than one month old – unless it's your own baby, as they should be protected from the virus by your immune system. 

Shingles is more common in adults aged over 70.  

About 1 in 5 people who have had chickenpox will develop shingles. This means that every year in England and Wales, tens of thousands of people will have shingles. Although shingles can occur at any age, the risk, severity and complications of shingles all increase with age. 

Each year a number of people aged 65 and over are admitted to hospital with shingles in Wales.  

The shingles vaccine helps to protect you by boosting your immunity and reducing your risk of getting shingles. If you do go on to have shingles, your symptoms may be milder and the illness shorter. 

You can find more information at NHS 111 Wales - Shingles (external site) 


Eligibility for the vaccine

Before September 2023, shingles vaccinations were available on the NHS for all adults in their 70s. 

From 1 September 2023, the age you can be vaccinated against shingles will change, and you can be protected from an earlier age. These changes are based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a scientific committee that advises UK health departments on immunisation. 

This table shows who is eligible for a shingles vaccine from 1 September 2023. 

Your age 

Do you have a very weakened immune system? 

When will I have the shingles vaccine? 

50 and over  


On or after your 50th birthday. Your GP surgery should get in touch with you to make an appointment.  


65 or 70 



On or after your 65th or 70th birthday.  Your GP surgery should get in touch with you to make an appointment. 


70 (before 1 September 2023)  to 79 (if you have not had a shingles vaccine) 


You are eligible. Book an appointment with your GP surgery. 

60 to 64  


You will be contacted when you turn 65.  


66 to 69  


If you turned 65 before 1 September 2023 you will be contacted when you turn 70.  

If you turned 65 after 1 September 2023 you are still eligible. Contact your GP surgery for an appointment.  

People aged 70 (before 1 September 2023) to 79 who have not had the shingles vaccine before are already eligible for the vaccine and stay eligible up to their 80th birthday. 

From 1 September 2023 the shingles vaccine will be offered routinely to people turning 65 and 70. They are eligible for the vaccination on or after their 65th or 70th birthday up to the day before their 80th birthday. 

Please note: People with a severely weakened immune system (for example, due to certain cancers such as leukaemia or lymphoma, certain treatments such as steroids, some medications, or organ transplants) who have not had the shingles vaccine before, will be eligible for it on or after their 50th birthday. If you have a severely weakened immune system there is no upper age limit for having the shingles vaccine.  However, it is recommended that you have the vaccine as soon as you become eligible so that you are protected as early as possible. 

Anyone who is eligible for the shingles vaccine but has not yet had it should take up their offer.  

The shingles vaccine is available at GP surgeries. Your GP surgery should contact you to make an appointment when you are eligible. If they don’t, or you think you might have missed the invitation, contact them and tell them you think you are due for a shingles vaccine.  

If you have any questions or concerns or need more information about the shingles vaccine, speak to your GP or practice nurse. 


About the vaccine

There are two shingles vaccines currently in use in Wales. The shingles vaccine is normally given as an injection into the muscle of the upper arm. 

Zostavax is a live vaccine. You only need one dose.  

Shingrix is not a live vaccine.  You will need two doses of Shingrix. Most people are offered the second dose of Shingrix about six months after the first dose. If you have a severely weakened immune system, your second dose of Shingrix should be given at least eight weeks after the first dose. 

If you would like to learn more about these vaccines, you can read the following patient leaflets. 

If you're eligible, you can get the vaccine at any time of year. The next time you speak to a healthcare professional ask them about the shingles vaccine. 


Side effects

Side effects are usually quite mild and don’t last very long.  The most common side effects are: 

  • pain and tenderness at the site of the injection 

  • headaches  

  • muscle aches and pains, and 

  • general aches.  

After the Shingrix vaccine you may feel tired and have a fever. You can rest and take the normal dose of paracetamol (follow the advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Do not use machines or drive if you are feeling unwell. 

If you have had the weakened live virus vaccine (Zostavax), a rash of small blisters may develop where the injection was given (but this is rare). If this happens, cover the rash until it crusts over and avoid contact with newborn babies and anyone with a weakened immune system or who is pregnant, especially if they have never had chickenpox. Please get advice from your GP surgery. 

Other reactions are uncommon or rare. For more information on common, uncommon and rare side effects, read the following patient leaflets. 

If you are concerned about symptoms, call NHS 111 Wales (external site). Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. 

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card scheme. You can do this online at or by downloading the Yellow Card app or calling 0800 731 6789 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). 


Information for the public

If you would like to learn more about the shingles vaccine or the diseases it protects against, a range of information is available (see below). You can also call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice if you have any questions. 


Further information

NHS 111 Wales - Shingles (external site)