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National Immunisation Program

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Answers to commonly asked questions

From 1 November 2023, the shingles vaccine Shingrix® will replace Zostavax® on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for eligible people.

Who can get the free vaccine?

A 2-dose course of Shingrix® will be available free for:

  • people aged 65 years and over

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over, and

  • immunocompromised people aged 18 years and over with the following medical conditions:

    • haemopoietic stem cell transplant

    • solid organ transplant

    • haematological malignancy (blood cancer)

    • advanced or untreated HIV.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful blistering rash. It is caused by reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox. While most symptoms typically last 2-3 weeks, shingles can become serious. It can lead to nerve pain that can last for months (called post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN). Other serious complications include pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness and swelling of the brain.

About 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime. Shingles usually affects older people, and the risk of complications increases with age, particularly for:

  • those over the age of 65

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over

  • some people with weakened immune systems.

Can I get the Shingrix® vaccine if I’ve already received Zostavax®?

Yes, but there are some conditions:

  • People who have already received a free Zostavax® shingles vaccine can’t get a free Shingrix® vaccine for at least 5 years after they have had Zostavax®.

  • People who have already received Zostavax® vaccine privately can receive Shingrix® free under the program if they are eligible. An interval of at least 12 months is recommended between receiving Zostavax® and a subsequent dose of Shingrix®. A 2-dose schedule of Shingrix® will still need to be completed.

How many vaccine doses do I need?

Two doses of the Shingrix® vaccine are recommended and free under the NIP for eligible people. It is important to receive both doses for the best protection. For most people, the two doses of Shingrix® vaccine are given 2 to 6 months apart. For people with weakened immune systems, the two doses are given 1 to 2 months apart.

I’ve already had Shingrix® privately. Can I get reimbursed?

If you’re eligible for free vaccination from 1 November 2023, you can’t be reimbursed for any privately purchased Shingrix® doses.

Eligible people who have received one dose of Shingrix® vaccine privately can receive their second dose free from 1 November 2023.

Do I still need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had shingles?

Vaccination is still recommended for those who have had shingles infection in the past. However, you should wait at least 12 months between an episode of shingles and having the vaccine. Discuss this with your doctor or other vaccination provider.

As the risk of further infection is higher in immunocompromised people, Shingrix® can be given from 3 months after illness.

Is the shingles vaccine safe and effective?

Yes. Shingrix® vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing shingles and severe complications.

It does not contain any live virus so it can be given to people who are immunocompromised (18 years and over).

Are there any side effects from the vaccine?

Shingrix® creates a strong defence against shingles and can cause temporary side effects. These can include pain where the needle went in, redness and swelling, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. These reactions are generally mild and disappear in a few days.

Shingrix® can be given at the same time as other ‘inactivated’ vaccines such as tetanus-containing vaccines, pneumococcal vaccines, flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines. However, it is best to have it by itself, if possible, to reduce the risk of mild to moderate side effects. Talk to your doctor or other vaccination provider for advice.

Where can I get more information?

Visit or contact your local state and territory health department.

All information in this fact sheet is correct as at October 2023.

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