There are two vaccines that can be administered to prevent shingles. These being the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine and the shingles (varicella-zoster) vaccine.
The chickenpox vaccine, known as Varivax, is a routine childhood vaccine to stop the spread of chickenpox. It is also advised that adults who have never had chickenpox get the vaccine, as chickenpox at an older age can have more severe symptoms. The vaccine does not guarantee that you will not get chickenpox, but it does reduce your chances of contracting it and can help to reduce symptoms and lower the risk of complications.
The shingles vaccine, known as Zostavax, like the chickenpox vaccine, does not guarantee you won’t get shingles, but it will reduce the severity of the disease. It is approved for use in those over the age of 50 and it is generally recommended for those who are 60 years or older, regardless of whether they have had shingles or not.
Zostavax is given as a single injection in the upper arm, but your doctor may have another preference of the site of injection. The side effects can include pain, tenderness and swelling around the site of the injection. On rare occasions a headache may also be a side effect. The vaccine is not intended as a treatment, but purely as a preventative measure. It also should not be given to those with a weakened immune system.
How can I prevent the spread of shingles?
If you have shingles, there are certain steps to be taken so as to stop the spread of the infection. These steps are:
- Keeping the area of your rash covered so that it doesn’t come into contact with someone else’s skin.
- Frequently washing your hands to stop the spread of infection.
- Avoiding people who haven’t had chickenpox before or those with a weakened immune system.