Does Shingrix Use A Live Virus?

No, Shingrix does not contain a live virus.

Does Shingrix Use A Live Virus?
Sep 08, 2018

Tam asked

Does Shingrix have a live virus in it at all?

At a glance

  • Shingrix does not contain a live virus. It is a recombinant vaccine. This differs from Zostavax (the other available shingles vaccine), which contains a live virus.



Unlike Zostavax, Shingrix does not contain a live virus and is not considered a live vaccine.

Shingrix is classified as a 'recombinant zoster vaccine'. It also contains an adjuvant (AS01B), intended to enhances the body's immune response to the vaccine.

Differences Between Shingrix And Zostavax

Aside from being a non-live, recombinant vaccine, Shingrix has several other differences from Zostavax, the older shingles vaccine, manufactured by Merck. They include:

  • Shingrix is the preferred shingles vaccine by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices).
  • Shingrix is administered intramuscularly while Zostavax is administered subcutaneously.
  • Shingrix is administered as a two-shot series. The second dose is to be given two to six months after the first dose. Zostavax is given as a single dose.
  • Studies show that Shingrix may be more effective in preventing cases of shingles in individuals and provide longer-lasting immunity.
  • As Shingrix is not a live vaccine, it is thought to be safe to give in immunocompromised patients. This isn't specifically noted in the prescribing information for the drug and more data may be needed to provide a definitive recommendation.

What Is Shingrix?

Shingrix is a recombinant vaccine recommended for adults at least 50 years of age and older to prevent shingles and related complications.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend that all adults 50 years of age and older and without a contraindication (e.g. an allergy) receive herpes zoster vaccination with Shingrix, even in those who previously received Zostavax. Zostavax will still be available and may be an option for:

  • Patients allergic to Shingrix
  • If a patient prefers Zostavax for some reason (e.g. as it is given via subcutaneous injection versus intramuscular)

Shingrix is given as a two-shot series, with doses separated by 2 to 6 months. In studies, Shingrix has been shown to maintain its efficacy for longer periods of time when compared to Zostavax. In addition, Shingrix is not a live vaccine, unlike Zostavax.

Shingrix can be given with non-adjuvanted flu vaccines and is not thought to interact with antiviral medications (unlike Zostavax).

Shingrix is generally well tolerated, with injection site reactions being the most common adverse effects

Additional Shingrix Information

We have written a variety of articles regarding Shingrix, which can be found below:

  1. Shingles (Herpes Zoster). CDC
  2. Efficacy of the Herpes Zoster Subunit Vaccine in Adults 70 Years of Age or Older. PubMed
  3. Efficacy of an adjuvanted herpes zoster subunit vaccine in older adults. PubMed
  4. Zostavax Prescribing Information. AccessFDA
  5. Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccination Information for Healthcare Providers. CDC
  6. Shingrix Prescribing Information. GSK

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