Getting The Shingles Vaccine Shingrix If You Never Had Chickenpox

The pharmacist discusses whether or not you need to get the shingles vaccine Shingrix if you never had chickenpox. 

Getting The Shingles Vaccine Shingrix If You Never Had Chickenpox
Apr 06, 2018

Magic Dragon asked

What is the requirement to take a shingles vaccine for an 80 year old male who has never had any childhood diseases (including chicken pox) and is in good health?


Shingrix VaccinationIt is recommended by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) that you receive Shingrix (the shingles vaccine) whether or not you remember having chickenpox in the past.

Studies show that more than 99% of Americans > 40 years old have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember having the disease. The following is from the CDC:

"There is no need to screen for a history of varicella (chickenpox) infection or to conduct laboratory testing for serologic evidence of prior varicella infection. More than 99% of adults age 50 years and older worldwide have been exposed to varicella zoster virus..."

In other words, your history of chickenpox not a factor in whether or not you should receive Shingrix and doctors are recommended by the CDC not to even test for it.

Shingrix Recommendation

Chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, which can stay inactive in the body for years, before reactivating to cause shingles.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that healthy adults ≥ 50 years old should receive 2 doses of the shingles vaccine, Shingrix, separated by 2-6 months.

It is recommended you get vaccinated even if in the past you had shingles, received Zostavax (older version of shingles vaccine), or are not sure if you had chickenpox. There is no maximum age for receiving Shingrix vaccine.

Getting the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) is the only way to protect against shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia, a complication from shingles. Two doses of Shingrix are more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and its complications.

The Shingrix vaccine is not recommended in patients who currently have a shingles outbreak or test negative for immunity to varicella zoster virus (evidence they never had chickenpox). Patients with a current shingles outbreak should have the Shingrix vaccine once the shingles outbreak resolves.


  • Healthy adults ≥ 50 years old should receive 2 doses of Shingrix shingles vaccine separated by 2 to 6 months to prevent shingles.
  • The above recommendation is for all patients, even if they don’t remember having chickenpox in the past or if they had the Zostavax shingles vaccine.

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