Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the latent (sleeping) chickenpox virus. One out of three people will get this with the incidence increasing with age. Shingles usually starts with itching or pain, followed by a rash. Most people who get this acute illness are better in 10-15 days, but some people can get chronic pain with this that lasts longer.

The Zostavax vaccine reduces the risk of shingles and pain associated with this. Zostavax is a live vaccine and can be given with other vaccines, e.g., the flu vaccine.

Zostavax is not appropriate if you are immune deficient, e.g., have leukemia, lymphoma, or other conditions that affect the bone marrow, immune-suppressed with HIV/AIDS , or having high dose of corticosteroids.

You can have this vaccine if you’ve previously had shingles to prevent the risk of recurrence, but it does need to be over a year since you had shingles.

This is a one-off free vaccination for ages 65-80, for two years. After this, it will be available to 65-year-olds only.

If you have had a previous Zostavax vaccination, you are still eligible for the free one if its more than 3 years since you had it.