A person who has never been exposed to varicella virus through infection or vaccination with varicella vaccine or zoster vaccine live is not at risk for shingles. Shingrix has not been evaluated for the prevention of primary infection with varicella virus. People who have never had chickenpox are recommended to receive 2 doses of varicella vaccine.
Serologic studies indicate that about 99% of people born before 1980 worldwide have had chickenpox even though many cannot recall having had chickenpox (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5705a1.htm). As a result, there is no need to ask immunocompetent people age 50 years and older for their varicella disease history or to perform a laboratory test for serologic evidence of prior varicella disease.
Immunocompromised adults age 19 years and older without evidence of exposure to live varicella virus through a history of chickenpox, zoster, or documentation of vaccination with live varicella vaccine (Varivax or ProQuad, Merck) or zoster vaccine live (Zostavax, Merck) should be evaluated further. Birth before 1980 is not sufficient proof of immunity for immunocompromised adults. For immunocompromised adults, evidence of immunity to varicella (confirming need for RZV) includes:
- Documentation of two doses of varicella vaccine, or
- Laboratory evidence of immunity or laboratory confirmation of disease, or
- Diagnosis or verification of a history of varicella or herpes zoster by a healthcare provider.
For any adult who is clinically determined to be susceptible to primary varicella infection, refer to the ACIP varicella vaccine recommendations for further guidance, including post-exposure prophylaxis guidance for immunocompromised adults: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5604a1.htm.
CDC has published clinical considerations for shingles vaccination of immunocompromised patients who lack evidence of immunity to chickenpox: www.cdc.gov/shingles/vaccination/immunocompromised-adults.html#special-populations.