How Does the Shingles Vaccine Work?

The shingles vaccine works by introducing a small dose of the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox in younger people and shingles in older adults, into the body, giving the immune system exposure to the virus and letting it build up a defense. By introducing a small amount of the varicella-roster virus, the shingles vaccine helps immune systems identify the illness-causing virus and recognize its potential harm. As a result, vaccines stimulate immune systems, helping them identify future viral invasions and destroy pathogens, preventing onset of shingles.

The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox in younger people, but causes shingles in elderly patients, particularly those over age 60. The shingles vaccine prevents shingles development in approximately 50 percent of people receiving the vaccine, according to WebMD. In those who acquire shingles, the vaccine lessens the severity and duration of shingles symptoms, including nerve pain. This nerve pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia, causes intense pain that may last for several months, even years, after the shingles virus leaves the body.

In addition to the individuals receiving a vaccination, the shingles vaccine also controls the spread of illness to others. . The varicella-roster classifies as a contagious virus, and having a vaccine against it reduces the spread of other contagious illnesses, such as measles, rubella and mumps.