Shingles Vaccine After Shingles Attack

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses what the recommendation are regarding getting the shingles vaccine after experiencing an outbreak.

Question

I had the old shingles vaccine (it wasn’t the Shingrix vaccine) about 7 years ago. This past May, I came down with shingles. My doctor told me then to wait 6 to 7 months to get the Shingrix vaccine. So I’ve been waiting to get it. It has only been 4 1/2 months and yesterday I broke out in shingles again. So far, it isn't as bad as the outbreak in May…crossing my fingers. So, when do you recommend I get the Shingrix vaccine after this current outbreak?

Asked by Mcb On Oct 02, 2021

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

On Oct 03, 2021

Key points

  • The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) states that you can be immunized with the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) after you are no longer experiencing symptoms from an acute shingles attack. There is no specific 'waiting period'.
  • Other health authorities have different recommendations. Health Canada recommends waiting at least one year after having a shingles attack to be vaccinated with Shingrix.

Hi there and thanks for reaching out to us!

The answer to when you get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine, Shingrix (i.e. Recombinant Zoster (Shingles) Vaccine (RZV)) comes from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and it's pretty straightforward.

I do want to state, however, that their recommendation isn't the only one.

What The CDC Recommends

The CDC states that it is okay to get the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) after an acute outbreak of shingles, as long as it has cleared up and you are no longer experiencing symptoms.

The following is directly from the CDC:

There is no specific amount of time you need to wait before administering Shingrix to patients who have had herpes zoster. However, you should not give Shingrix to patients who are experiencing an acute episode of herpes zoster.
CDC

They additionally state:

The general guidance for any vaccine is to wait until the acute stage of the illness is over and symptoms abate.
CDC

You mentioned in your question that you had an outbreak of shingles yesterday. After this acute episode has cleared up, and you are no longer experiencing symptoms, you should be safe to get the vaccine (although be sure to check with your doctor first regarding your particular medical situation).

Health Canada Recommendation

I stated that there are other recommendations (aside from the CDC) concerning when you can get the shingles vaccine after experiencing a shingles outbreak. One such recommendation comes from Health Canada.

They recommend you wait one year after a previous episode of shingles to be vaccinated. From Health Canada:

For adults ≥50 years of age without contraindications who have had a previous episode of HZ [herpes zoster], immunization with a 2 dose series of RZV [Shingrix] should be offered. Immunization with RZV [Shingrix] may be considered at least one year after the episode of HZ. Persons with active HZ should not be immunized with HZ vaccine.
Health Canada

Health Canada doesn't give a specific reason why they recommend waiting one year after a shingles episode, but it likely stems from concerns that it can be difficult to tell when exactly an acute episode is finally resolved and the lack of studies on the matter.

Final Words

I hope your shingles episode clears up soon!

As mentioned above, the CDC states you can get vaccinated with Shingrix once it clears up. However, I recommend you check with your doctor regarding when the best time is to get vaccinated for your particular medical situation.

There is probably a good reason why your doctor said to wait six to seven months last time you had an outbreak. Be sure to check with them regarding this instance.

Thank you again!

References

  • Shingrix Recommendations, CDC
  • Shingrix Prescribing Information, GSK
  • Herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine: Canadian Immunization Guide, Health Canada

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication related questions!

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