A vaccine for shingles is on the Australian Immunisation Schedule and is available for 70 year olds. Until 31 October 2021, a single catch-up dose is also available for adults aged 71 to 79 years.

The disease

Shingles is also called herpes zoster. It is a disease caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus (the varicella zoster virus). It causes a painful blistering rash.

Shingles is a serious disease because it can cause severe nerve pain that can last for months. It can also lead to:

  • serious eye problems, including blindness
  • pneumonia
  • hearing problems
  • swelling of the brain
  • death.

The first time you catch the virus, you get chickenpox. The virus stays in your body and can reactivate later in life. When it reactivates, it is called shingles.

Some people might have had very mild chickenpox, and they might not even remember having it. These people can still develop shingles later in life.

The vaccine

Zoster vaccine is recommended for:

  • adults aged ≥60 years
  • adults aged ≥50 years who are household contacts of a person who is immunocompromised

For adults aged 70 years to 79 years, this available for free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Until 31 October 2021, a single catch-up dose is also being funded for adults aged 71 to 79 years.

Page reviewed November 2018.
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