No, vaccines indicated for herpes zoster (shingles) infection prophylaxis will not prevent or treat herpes outbreaks (i.e. cold sores) on the lips.
Specifically, Zostavax and Shingrix, the two vaccines available in the United States to prevent shingles, will not protect you against cold sores.
Shingles Vs. Cold Sores
The viruses that cause shingles and cold sores are in the same family, herpesviridae, but are different species. Cold sores are generally caused by herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) while shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV or HSV-3).
While there are two vaccines available to prevent shingles outbreaks, their protection does not carry over to the herpes virus that causes cold sores (HSV-1). There are no vaccines available to prevent infection or outbreak of HSV-1.
About Cold Sores
As mentioned, cold sores (i.e. herpes labialis) are typically caused by herpes simplex virus type I (HSV-1). It is an extremely common infection, with more than two-thirds of the global population carrying the virus (4). Most of the time, individuals are asymptomatic but recurrent lesions occur in many, generally around the border of the lip. Symptoms include:
While there are a variety of treatment options, there is no vaccine. Untreated, cold sores generally heal in about 10 days.
Prescription treatment options for cold sore outbreaks include:
- Oral antivirals, such as valacyclovir (Valtrex), famciclovir (Famvir, etc) and acyclovir.
- Topical antivirals, such as acyclovir 5% cream (Zovirax) and penciclovir 1% cream (Denavir).
- The combination anti-viral/anti-inflammatory product Xerese cream (acyclovir 5% and hydrocortisone 1%).
Over the counter treatment options include:
- Orajel for cold sores
Shingles infections are caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus and is characterized by a vesicular rash and post-herpetic neuralgia . In the US, there are currently two vaccines approved to prevent shingles outbreaks:
Shingrix is the preferred vaccine for most individuals, and we have written a variety of articles on the medication, which can be found here:
To reiterate, both cold sores and shingles are caused by herpes viruses, but different species. The vaccines for shingles will not provide any protection from cold sore infections or outbreaks. There are currently no vaccines available for cold sores (herpes simplex virus 1).
Shingles vaccines (Shingrix, Zostavax) will not prevent cold sores as cold sores are caused by a different virus (herpes simplex virus-1).
- Famvir Prescribing Information. Pharma
- Zovirax Prescribing Information. AccessFDA
- Valtrex Prescribing Information. AccessFDA
- Cold sore. NHS
- Globally, an estimated two-thirds of the population under 50 are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. World Health Organization
- Herpes simplex virus. World Health Organization
- Treatment and prevention of herpes labialis. PubMed
- Shingles (Herpes Zoster). CDC