Paul A. Offit, MD, explains what precautions adults who receive certain shingles vaccine should take when they are around infants or people who are immunocompromised.
Do I need to avoid being around infants after 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 that parents wonder about is if they got a shingles vaccine, can they be around infants. Primarily it’s the grandparents that ask this question obviously because the shingles vaccine, the older shingles that we use was given over 60 years of age and there’s a newer shingles vaccine that’s given now to anyone over 50 years of age. And here’s the answer:
If you got the older shingles vaccine, the one called Zostavax®, that’s made from a live, weakened form of chickenpox virus. In fact, it’s the exact same vaccine as the chickenpox vaccine that’s given to children, it’s just 14 times the dose. So, the answer to the question if you’ve gotten Zostavax, can you be around an infant, the answer is yes, but you have to make sure that you cover the area where you got the vaccine because that is a live, weakened virus, which could then theoretically be spread to an infant. So, you want to make sure that the area where you’ve gotten the vaccine is covered.
The other vaccine, which is called Shingrix®, is actually not a live, weakened viral vaccine. It’s just one protein, the so-called glycoprotein E, that’s taken from this chickenpox virus, and then it’s combined with two adjuvants, which are just chemicals that help to boost the immune response. So there there’s no problem, because it’s not the whole virus. Because it’s not a live virus, the Shingrix vaccine is not a problem in terms of being around an infant.
So, the short answer then is, if you’ve gotten Zostavax and you’re going to be around an infant, you need to make sure the area where you’ve gotten the vaccine is covered until it’s completely healed. If you’ve gotten Shingrix, because it’s not a live, weakened form of the virus, you really don’t have to worry about being in contact with infants.
Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center
Last Reviewed on Jan 22, 2018