Shingrix is prescribed to help prevent herpes zoster (shingles) in adults. It’s a brand-name biologic drug that isn’t available as a biosimilar. Shingrix belongs to a group of drugs called vaccines.
Medically reviewed by Victor Nguyen, PharmD, MBA on April 22, 2023
Written by Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBA
This article describes Shingrix’s uses and dosage, ways to save on cost, and more. Below you’ll find some coupon options for Shingrix.
Side effects of Shingrix
Shingrix may cause mild or serious side effects (also known as adverse reactions). More common mild side effects of Shingrix and its serious side effects are listed below. This article doesn’t include all possible side effects of the drug. Side effects can vary based on your age and overall health and any other medications you take.
To learn more about Shingrix’s side effects, see this article or ask your doctor or pharmacist. You can also read the prescribing information* for Shingrix.
* To view Shingrix’s prescribing information, see the “Article resources” section below.
Mild side effects
More common mild side effects reported with Shingrix are listed below.
With many drugs, mild side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If the side effects are bothersome, tell your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to suggest ways to manage them.
Shingrix’s mild side effects include:
- mild reaction at the site where Shingrix is injected, including pain, redness, discoloration, or swelling
- muscle pain
- fatigue (low energy)
- mild allergic reaction*
* For details about this side effect, see the “Warnings for Shingrix” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects of Shingrix are listed below. To learn more about Shingrix’s side effects, see the prescribing information* for Shingrix.
With many drugs, serious side effects are possible but not common. If you have serious side effects from this drug, call your doctor right away. If you’re having severe symptoms or a medical emergency, call 911 or a local emergency number.
In general, Shingrix’s serious side effects include:
- fainting right after receiving the vaccine
- Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare immune system reaction that causes nerve damage)
- severe allergic reaction†
* To view Shingrix’s prescribing information, see the “Article resources” section below.
† For details about this side effect, see the “Warnings for Shingrix” section below.
This article doesn’t include all possible serious side effects of the drug.
Dosage of Shingrix
The dosage of Shingrix your doctor prescribes may vary based on certain factors. Talk with your doctor about the dosage you should receive.
The Shingrix vaccine is given as an injection into your muscle. It’s given in two separate doses.
It’s very important that you receive both doses of Shingrix. Your doctor will explain how Shingrix will be given to you and where you’ll receive it. They’ll also explain your Shingrix dosing schedule, including when you should receive your second dose.
Most adults receive their second Shingrix dose 2 to 6 months after receiving the first dose. But if you have a weakened immune system, your doctor or pharmacist may suggest getting your second dose 1 or 2 months after getting the first Shingrix dose.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about Shingrix dosing.
Common questions about Shingrix
Below you’ll find answers to a few commonly asked questions about Shingrix.
Will I experience certain side effects after the second dose of Shingrix?
No. Side effects after either the first or second dose of Shingrix are expected to be the same.
In the drug’s studies, people were more likely to report headache and shivering after receiving the second Shingrix dose compared with the first dose. But these side effects can happen after either dose of Shingrix.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have more questions about Shingrix’s side effects.
How does Shingrix compare with Zostavax?
Shingrix and Zostavax are both vaccines used to help prevent varicella-zoster, the virus that causes shingles.
But Zostavax is no longer available in the United States. This is because Shingrix was found to be more effective at helping prevent shingles than Zostavax.
If you have questions about how Shingrix compares with Zostavax, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Is Shingrix a live vaccine?
No, Shingrix is not a live vaccine. Live vaccines contain a live, weakened version of the germ they protect against. While rare, it’s possible for live vaccines to cause infection. When this happens, the infection is usually much milder compared with infection caused by the virus the vaccine protects against.
Shingrix is an inactivated vaccine. This means it contains a version of the varicella-zoster virus that’s no longer alive. Inactivated vaccines cannot cause infection with the virus they protect against.
Another shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is a live vaccine. But Zostavax is no longer available in the U.S.
Your doctor or pharmacist can answer questions you may have about differences between live and inactivated vaccines.
Can I receive other vaccines at the same time as Shingrix?
Yes, it’s generally considered safe to receive other vaccines at the same time as Shingrix.
If you receive other vaccines at the same time as Shingrix, your doctor or another healthcare professional will inject the vaccines into different sites. This may include injecting them into different arms.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about other vaccines. They can provide more information on the best time for you to receive them.
What are the age recommendations for Shingrix? Can someone under 50 years of age receive the vaccine?
Yes, it’s possible for someone under the age of 50 years old to receive the Shingrix vaccine.
Shingrix is prescribed to help prevent shingles in adults ages:
- 50 years or older
- 18 years or older who have a higher risk of shingles due to a weakened immune system
For example, if you’re under the age of 50 years old and have had a solid organ transplant, you are more likely to have a weakened immune system. This may be due to the treatments your doctor prescribes to help prevent your immune system from rejecting the transplant. In this case, your doctor may have you take Shingrix to help prevent a shingles infection.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to learn more about age recommendations for vaccines, including Shingrix.
How does Shingrix work? And how long does it take to start working?
Shingrix’s mechanism of action (how it works) is by teaching your body’s immune system to recognize and attack the varicella-zoster virus. This is the virus that causes shingles. (Varicella also causes chickenpox, but Shingrix does not protect against chickenpox.)
Shingrix is an inactivated vaccine, which means it contains a version of the varicella-zoster virus that’s no longer alive. The vaccine works by presenting this version of the virus to your immune system. Your immune system learns to recognize and create antibodies against the varicella-zoster virus. These antibodies stay in your body. So if your immune system detects the varicella-zoster virus in your body, it activates these antibodies to attack the virus. This helps prevent infection.
Shingrix starts working after the first dose. But it takes two doses and some time for your body to adapt and protect itself from shingles completely. The vaccine is considered fully effective about 1 month after the second dose.
Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about what to expect with Shingrix.
You may be able to save money on your prescription for Shingrix by using our Perks discount coupons. These can be found at the end of this article.
If you have questions about how to pay for Shingrix, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also learn more about the cost of Shingrix in this article.
Note: Optum Perks coupons cannot be used with insurance copays or benefits.
Interactions and warnings for Shingrix
Below, you’ll find information about Shingrix’s possible interactions and warnings.
Interactions of Shingrix
For some vaccines, certain things may affect how the drug works. These include getting other vaccines, consuming alcohol or certain foods, or taking other medications. This effect is called a drug interaction.
Before you receive Shingrix, ask your doctor to check for possible interactions. They can check for interactions these items may cause with Shingrix. Be sure to tell them about any of the following you take or use:
- prescription drugs
- over-the-counter medications
- vitamins, herbs, or supplements
To learn about drug-condition interactions, see the “Warnings for Shingrix” section below.
Warnings for Shingrix
Shingrix should not be given to certain people. And some people should be given Shingrix cautiously.
Shingrix could cause harm to people with certain health conditions. This effect is called a drug-condition interaction. Other factors can also affect whether Shingrix is a safe option for you.
Ask your doctor about specific warnings for Shingrix, and be sure to tell your doctor about your:
- current health, including any allergies to medications or vaccines
- past health conditions or surgeries
Shingrix can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Severe allergic reactions are rare but possible.
If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Shingrix or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Shingrix. They can tell you about medications that are safer options for you.
A mild allergic reaction may cause the following symptoms:
A severe allergic reaction may cause the following symptoms:
- swelling under your skin, usually in your hands, feet, eyelids, or lips
- swelling of your mouth, throat, or tongue, which can cause breathing problems
If you have an allergic reaction to Shingrix, call your doctor right away. If you have severe symptoms, call 911 or a local emergency number.
Pregnancy or breastfeeding and Shingrix
Information about Shingrix and pregnancy and breastfeeding is described below.
Shingrix and pregnancy
It’s not known whether Shingrix should be given during pregnancy. If you’re planning a pregnancy or can become pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking this vaccine.
Shingrix and breastfeeding
In general, Shingrix is considered safe to receive while breastfeeding. That said, ask your doctor about whether they feel it’s safe for you specifically.
Uses of Shingrix
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Shingrix for certain conditions. Approved uses for Shingrix are described below.
Use to help prevent shingles
Doctors may prescribe Shingrix to help prevent shingles (also known as herpes zoster). It’s used for this purpose in adults.
Specifically, Shingrix is prescribed to help prevent shingles in adults ages:
- 50 years or older
- 18 years or older who are at a higher risk of shingles due to a weakened immune system
Shingles is an infection that causes a painful, burning skin rash. Depending on your skin tone, this rash may appear red, dark brown, dark pink, or purple.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox in the past, the varicella-zoster virus may stay inactive in your body for a long time before coming back as shingles.
Note: Shingrix does not help prevent chickenpox, and doctors will not prescribe it for this purpose.
What to ask your doctor
This article describes Shingrix’s uses and dosage, ways to save on cost, and more. Let your doctor know if you have questions about Shingrix or would like more details about it.
Here’s a list of some possible questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- Does Shingrix contain neomycin?
- When should I receive my second dose of Shingrix?
- If I’m taking prednisone short term, do I need to wait until I finish treatment with it before I receive Shingrix?
- Food and Drug Administration. (2023). Purple Book: Database of licensed biological products. https://purplebooksearch.fda.gov
- Shingrix (zoster vaccine recombinant, adjuvanted), suspension for intramuscular injection. (2021). https://www.fda.gov/media/108597/download
Disclaimer: Optum Perks has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
- Suspension Reconstituted
- 1 of 50mcg/0.5ml
- 1 Vial
Zoster Vaccine (Recombinant)
(ZOS ter vak SEEN ree KOM be nant)
Brand Names: US
What is this drug used for?
It is used to prevent shingles.
What do I need to tell my doctor BEFORE I take this drug?
If you are allergic to this drug; any part of this drug; or any other drugs, foods, or substances. Tell your doctor about the allergy and what signs you had. This drug may interact with other drugs or health problems. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your drugs (prescription or OTC, natural products, vitamins) and health problems. You must check to make sure that it is safe for you to take this drug with all of your drugs and health problems. Do not start, stop, or change the dose of any drug without checking with your doctor.
What are some things I need to know or do while I take this drug?
Tell all of your health care providers that you take this drug. This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan on getting pregnant, or are breast-feeding. You will need to talk about the benefits and risks to you and the baby.
What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?
WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect: Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
What are some other side effects of this drug?
All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away: Pain, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Muscle pain. Feeling tired or weak. Headache. Shivering. Fever. Upset stomach or throwing up. Stomach pain or diarrhea. These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088. You may also report side effects at https://www.fda.gov/medwatch.
How is this drug best taken?
Use this drug as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely. It is given as a shot into a muscle.
What do I do if I miss a dose?
Call your doctor to find out what to do.
How do I store and/or throw out this drug?
If you need to store this drug at home, talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about how to store it.
General drug facts
If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor. Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else's drugs. Keep all drugs in a safe place. Keep all drugs out of the reach of children and pets. Throw away unused or expired drugs. Do not flush down a toilet or pour down a drain unless you are told to do so. Check with your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to throw out drugs. There may be drug take-back programs in your area. Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about this drug, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider. If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.
Consumer Information Use and Disclaimer
This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only the healthcare provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for a specific patient. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this medicine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from the healthcare provider. You must talk with the healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this medicine.