The shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is a new vaccine that has been released for adults over the age of 50. The vaccine is FDA-approved and protects against the herpes zoster virus that causes chickenpox before it can turn into shingles. More importantly, it is the only known way to protect against postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a devastating condition that causes burning pain due to damaged skin and never fibers. The medical community highly recommends getting it, but that doesn’t mean there are no shingles vaccine side effects.
Another shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is also available but medical experts prefer Shingrix because it provides stronger protection against shingles and PHN.
There are many benefits associated with taking this vaccination. But like most medications, there are also side effects, some more serious than others. This article will discuss 11 of the most commonly reported side effects of Shingrix and how to deal with them if you experience any of them after your vaccination.
Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine
- Itching, soreness, redness at injection site – These are all common side effects that can occur after any vaccine. They usually resolve on their own within a few days. However, if the itching or soreness persists for more than a week, you can use over-the-counter creams or lotions to relieve the symptoms.
- Muscle aches and pains – Again, these are common and usually go away within a week or two. You can use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms until they resolve on their own.
- Nausea, headache – Both of these side effects are also common but serious enough that you should report them immediately to your medical provider if you experience them after your vaccination.
- Fever – A fever is a common side effect that usually resolves within three days, although it can take up to two weeks. You should contact your doctor if you have a temperature higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius because this may be an indication of an infection. If the fever continues for more than three days or you develop any other symptoms such as chest congestion, difficulty breathing, rash, or extreme weakness, seek immediate medical attention.
- Allergic reaction – This is also a rare side effect that can be very serious. Symptoms include hives, swelling around your face or mouth, difficulty breathing.
- Fainting – Fainting can occur after intramuscular injections, such as SHINGRIX. To avoid falling and harm due to fainting, take appropriate precautions.
- Feeling weak or fatigued – This is another common side effect that usually goes away within a week or two. You can try taking over-the-counter vitamin supplements to ease the symptoms until they resolve on their own
- Back pain – This is a common side effect that usually resolves within two weeks. This can also be a very serious if it persists for more than 24 hours or you develop blisters, redness, swelling around the injection site or fever. It should therefore be reported to your medical provider immediately so they can treat you as needed.
- Shivering – This is also a common side effect that usually resolves within minutes.
- Vision changes – This is a rare but serious side effect that should be immediately reported to your medical provider if you experience it after your vaccination. Symptoms may include blurred vision, sensitivity to light, or eye pain.
- Upset stomach – This can also a common side effect that usually resolves within a few hours.
How effective is the shingles vaccine?
According to the CDC, Shingrix is more than 90 percent effective in preventing shingles and its complications, including PHN. Shingrix comes in two doses, administered in 2 to 6 months intervals.
Shingrix Safety Information
- If you are allergic to any of SHINGRIX’s components, or have had an adverse reaction to a past dose of it, you should not take it.
- SHINGRIX has not been studied in pregnant or nursing women. Tell your doctor if you’re expecting a baby, plan to get pregnant, or are breastfeeding. VACCINATION WITH SHINGRIX MAY NOT PROTECT EVERYONE
- Consult your doctor about the advantages and drawbacks of SHINGRIX. Only a medical professional can decide if SHINGRIX is suitable for you.
Who should get the shingle vaccine?
The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults age 50 and older. However, if you are age 60 or older, you should get the vaccine whether or not you’ve had chickenpox.
Shingrix is also recommended for anyone who has been exposed to someone with shingles. This includes people who have contact with a rash caused by shingles, regardless of whether they’ve had chickenpox.
If you are a health care worker who has direct contact with patients, you should get the shingles vaccine. So should people who live in long-term care facilities or group homes.
You may also want to consider getting vaccinated if you have HIV/AIDS or another medical condition that weakens your immune system.
People who receive the shingles vaccine should still practice safe hygiene, such as washing their hands often and avoiding contact with people who have chickenpox or shingles until their rash has healed.
Who shouldn’t get shingles vaccine?
You may not be able to receive the shingles vaccine if you: are pregnant, plan to become pregnant in the next four weeks, or are breastfeeding.
Moreover, avoid the Shingrix vaccine if you:
- have had a severe reaction to the first dose of the Shingrix vaccine
- have had a severe allergy to one of the components of the Shingrix vaccine
- have shingles currently
- received a negative test result for the varicella zoster virus
- have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS
- have cancer
- are undergoing radiation therapy
- have ever had an allergic reaction to gelatin
Zostavax is a live virus vaccine that offers protection against the shingles virus. It may be given at the same time as other live and inactivated vaccines, such as those routinely recommended for people over 60 years old, such as influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations. Unfortunately, Zostavax is no longer available in the US as of November 2020, according to the CDC.
The most common side effect from Zostavax is usually mild pain at injection site which lasts one day on average . Other commonly reported reactions include fatigue; tiredness, headache and mild itching.