“From 1st April 2018 the Shingles vaccine is free for us!

    Talk to your doctor or nurse about getting the free Shingles vaccine, ZOSTAVAX.

  • Shingles: are you at risk?

    If you've had chickenpox, and most New Zealand adults have, you are already carrying the virus that causes Shingles.

    If you're 50 or older, your risk of Shingles goes up.

    When you're young, your immune system is usually strong enough to keep the virus in check. But as you age, it becomes easier for Shingles to break through your body's defences.


    Almost all people (96%) that develop Shingles will experience pain.3


      What is Shingles?

      •   Usually a rash of painful blisters that affects one side of the face or body.
      •   Usually acute pain - burning, throbbing, shooting and stabbing - that lasts for up to 30 days.
      •   1 in 4 people experience complications from Shingles. Of these, postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication.
      •   PHN, which is chronic nerve pain, can last for months or even years.

      How do you get Shingles?

      It's no mystery.

      When you get chickenpox, usually as a child, the virus never leaves your body. It stays dormant in your nervous system but can re-emerge as Shingles at any time.

      No one knows what triggers Shingles, but we do know that as we age our ability to fight infection decreases. That is why two-thirds of all cases occur in people older than 50 years of age.


      Can you catch Shingles?

      No , you cannot catch Shingles from someone else.

      Same virus as Chickenpox
      However, it is important to remember that Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus (varicella). Therefore, it is possible for someone who has never had, or never been vaccinated against chickenpox, to be infected with chickenpox from a person with Shingles.

      Contagious during blister phase
      The virus can spread when the Shingles rash is in the blister phase. Once the Shingles rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.

      The risk of a person with Shingles spreading the virus is low if the Shingles rash is covered.

        What is Shingles?

      How is Shingles treated?

      ZOSTAVAX is not a treatment for Shingles.

      There are a variety of medicines used to treat Shingles, including antivirals and painkillers.

      Treating postherpetic neuralgia
      People with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) may also require steroids, topical medications, antidepressants and/or anticonvulsants. Shingles and PHN can be difficult to treat so seeking medical advice as soon as possible is important.

      Antiviral medicine
      While antiviral medicines can help reduce the severity and duration of Shingles symptoms, to be effective they need to be taken within 72 hours of the rash appearing. Any later and they may be less effective.

      Your Doctor will determine the right treatment for you.


    The impact of Shingles pain

    •   It's estimated that up to 80,000 cases of Shingles occur every year in New Zealand and Australia.
    •   Time off work due to pain and discomfort during the initial rash phase.
    •   Unsightly blisters on one side of your face or body that take up to 30 days to heal.
    •   1 in 4 people who get Shingles will experience complications. Of these, the most common is long-term pain and discomfort (postherpetic neuralgia or PHN).
    •   PHN can result in disabling and difficult-to-control pain that may substantially reduce quality of life for months or even years.
    •   Approximately 90% of people with PHN will suffer from allodynia; distressing and debilitating pain caused by the slightest touch to affected skin.

    Help prevent Shingles with ZOSTAVAX

    •   ZOSTAVAX is free for people aged 65-80.
    •   ZOSTAVAX is not funded if you’re aged 50-64 or 81 years and older. There will be a charge for the vaccine and other medical fees may apply.
    •   If you're 50 or older ZOSTAVAX reduces the risk of developing Shingles and its associated acute and long-term pain.
    •   ZOSTAVAX is an injection and you will only need one dose.
    •   It is generally well-tolerated with few side effects.*
    •   You can get your Shingles vaccine at the same time as your ‘flu vaccine.

    *Refer to 'Things to Know About ZOSTAVAX' section for more details.


      Shingles symptoms can range from mild to severe. These stories represent some New Zealanders’ personal experience of Shingles.

      The doctors were baffled...

      I had a niggling pain in my right, lower abdomen which radiated to my back. I wasn't sure what it was but it gradually worsened overnight. Next day the pain was so intense that I consulted a doctor.

      - Diana, aged 60, New Plymouth

      Still suffering with shingles...

      The doctors were baffled...

      Diana , 60, New Plymouth

      The pain
      was so bad
      I thought...

      Still suffering with Shingles...

      Denny , aged 64, Pauatahanui, Wellington

      The First
      I had

      Shingles has affected my optic nerve...

      It was itchy and tender...

      Pain about a seven or eight...

      Pain lasted about three years...

      Help prevent shingles
    THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE USING ZOSTAVAX (zoster virus vaccine, live) 19,400 PFU 0.65 mL vial for injection:
    •   ZOSTAVAX is free for people aged 65-80.
    •   ZOSTAVAX is not funded if you’re aged 50-64 or 81 years and older. There will be a charge for the vaccine and other medical fees may apply.
    •   ZOSTAVAX is a prescription medicine used in adults 50 years of age and over to help prevent Shingles and associated pain.
    •   ZOSTAVAX should not be used in people who have a weakened immune system as a result of disease, medicine or other treatment.
    •   Common side effects are: headache, localised injection site reactions and pain in the arm or leg.
    •   Consult your doctor to see if ZOSTAVAX is right for you.
    •   The protective effect of vaccines can vary from person to person.
    •   ZOSTAVAX has benefits and risks.
    •   If you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional.
    •   For additional product information consult the consumer medicines information available on request from 0800 500 673, or refer to the Medsafe website www.medsafe.govt.nz

    Based on Data Sheet prepared 16 July 2018 
    References: 1. Immunisation Handbook 2014;563-575 2. NZ ZOSTAVAX Data Sheet 18 April 2016 3. Katz J, Cooper EM, Walther RR, et al. Acute pain in herpes zoster and its impact on health-related quality of life. Clin Infect Dis. 2004;39(3):342–348. 4. Yawn B, Saddier P, et al. A Population Based Study of the Incidence and Complication Rates of Herpes Zoster Before Zoster Vaccine Introduction. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007;82 (11):1341-1349