Do I Need to Avoid Being Around Infants After Getting a Shingles Vaccine?

Paul A. Offit, MD, explains why adults who receive the shingles vaccine don’t have to take any extra precautions when they are around infants or people who are immune compromised.


Do I Need to Avoid Being Around Infants After Getting a Shingles Vaccine?

Paul Offit, MD:  Hi, my name is Paul Offit. I’m talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center, here at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

One question people and often grandparents have is, “Can I be around people if I’ve gotten the shingles vaccine?” So, what is shingles? Shingles is a reactivation, or reawakening, of a previous chickenpox infection. So, if you had chickenpox as a child, that virus lives silently, or latently, in the nervous system. And sometimes when you get older or when you have a particularly severe infection or you’re on chemotherapy, for example, that virus can reawaken and then travel down a so-called nerve route and cause a pretty severe, debilitating, painful reaction called shingles. It’s one of the worst pains in medicine, so it’s certainly worth preventing.

There were two shingles vaccines. One of them was called Zostavax®. That actually was the chickenpox vaccine; it just was 14 times the dose. That was a live weakened form of the virus; that is no longer commercially available. The other vaccine is called Shingrix®. It’s recommended for everyone over 50 years of age. That vaccine is not a live attenuated viral vaccine. It really is made just using one particular protein from the virus called the glycoprotein E, and then it has two adjuvants associated with that. It’s an excellent vaccine; it works very well in people over 50 years of age, and certainly worth getting. But in terms of whether or not you’re “contagious,” if you will, after you’ve gotten that vaccine — you’re not, because it only contains one protein. So, certainly if grandparents are worried if they’ve gotten the shingles vaccine whether they can be around their grandchildren, that’s not a problem.

Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Jan 27, 2020