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6 questions most people forget to ask about the shingles vaccination service

1. Will the vaccine stop me from getting chickenpox?

No vaccine is 100% effective and some people who are vaccinated against varicella may still catch chickenpox. However, varicella vaccines have been shown to be over 90% effective for up to ten years.

2. Can the vaccine cause chickenpox infection?

Varicella vaccines are live attenuated vaccines. This means they contain a live virus that has been weakened. The virus replicates in your body and you develop antibodies to it. Some of the vaccine’s side-effects are similar to chickenpox infection, including a rash in some cases. Symptoms are usually much milder than the disease itself.

3. Can anyone have the vaccine?

The vaccines are only recommended for healthy people in order to protect close contacts who are at high risk of severe disease. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system you may be offered varicella zoster immunoglobulin instead of a vaccine.

4. What should I do if I feel ill or have side-effects after my vaccination?

Side-effects are usually mild and can be managed with rest, plenty of water to drink and a simple analgesic such as paracetamol. You should not take aspirin for at least six weeks after your vaccination.

5. Could the vaccine virus be transmitted from me to to my family members?

There have been very rare cases of transmission of the vaccine virus strain. These are only known to have occurred when a chickenpox-type rash has developed within 6 weeks of vaccination. If this happens you should avoid close contact with vulnerable people until the rash has completely cleared.

6. Can the vaccine cause shingles?

The vaccine virus strain can lie dormant in your body, just like the real infection, and reactivate later to cause shingles. This has only been documented rarely and the risk of it happening with the vaccine is much lower than with the real chickenpox infection.


Public Health England (PHE); Varicella: the green book, chapter 34; Published 20 March 2013, Last updated 26 June 2019.

Summary of medicinal Product Characteristics (SmPC), VARIVAX® powder and solvent for suspension for injection in a pre-filled syringe; Merck Sharp & Dohme (UK) Limited, Updated 11-Feb-2021. Accessed online via The electronic Medicines Compendium

Summary of medicinal Product Characteristics (SmPC), Varilrix® 10 3.3 PFU/0.5ml powder and solvent for solution for injection; GlaxoSmithKline UK, Updated 20-Feb-2020. Accessed online via The electronic Medicines Compendium