Shingles vaccine: Can I transmit the vaccine virus to others?
If you get the Shingrix vaccine for shingles, you can visit with anyone after vaccination. If you get the Zostavax shingles vaccine, ask your health care provider about the risks of that vaccine for you and your family.
The virus that causes shingles is called varicella-zoster virus. It also causes chickenpox.
You may have heard you can pass the virus to others if you get the Zostavax shingles vaccine. That vaccine is offered outside of the United States. But it was used in the United States from 2006 to November 2020.
Zostavax is made from the whole but weakened varicella-zoster virus. That means your body gets a real infection but one that it should clear out easily.
Because the virus is still able to infect people, if you are vaccinated with Zostavax, you may be able to spread the virus to people who have never had chickenpox. If a pregnant person who has never had chickenpox is infected early in pregnancy, it can cause birth defects.
Shingrix is the only approved shingles vaccine in the United States. It has been used since October 2017. Instead of the whole, weak virus in Zostavax, Shingrix uses only a piece of the varicella-zoster virus.
Since Shingrix uses only a piece of the varicella-zoster virus to train the immune system, the vaccine can't cause illness in anyone else.
Research on Shingrix shows it is very effective at preventing shingles in people age 50 and older. It is also likely to lower the risk of a shingles complication called postherpetic neuralgia.
Last Updated Dec 1, 2022