Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
May 6, 2021
As with most vaccines, the shingles vaccine has been tested, side effects have been studied, and it was released as a safe protection against contracting shingles.
If you’re concerned about the shingles vaccine, you can speak to a doctor about more details before getting it. Our partner, PlushCare, is a telehealth company that provides access to online appointments with qualified board-certified doctors. You can make an appointment here, to discuss if the shingles vaccine is right for you.
There were two options for shingles vaccines:
Zostavax was approved in 2006 but has since been superseded by the second option, Shingrix. Most doctors prefer Shingrix to Zostavax, and it is now the only option available. The CDC approved Shingrix in 2017, and since then, about 17 million people have taken it.
Believe it or not, shingles is a form of herpes! It’s called herpes zoster and is caused by varicella-zoster, which is the virus that also causes chickenpox. A shingles infection is actually a chickenpox infection presenting itself a second time. After you get chickenpox, the virus stores itself in tissues by your spine and brain, and it can resurface as shingles one or multiple times.
Usually, the virus doesn’t come out of dormancy for many years because the immune system restrains it, which is why shingles is typically more of a concern for older people.
Shingles can be a chronic condition, flaring up at random intervals. Shingles can also have harmful complications beyond the irritating, painful rash it creates.
Sometimes people develop long-term nerve pain after a shingles outbreak. This condition called postherpetic neuralgia can cause serious and permanent damage to nerve fibers that the virus has infected. Postherpetic neuralgia can cause burning or deep pain for months after the rash has resolved.
The main goal of the shingles vaccine is to reduce the risk of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. Even if you have had an outbreak of shingles, getting vaccinated can prevent future episodes.
By getting vaccinated, adults over age 50 will not have to worry about a breakout occurring, as well as the development of long-term nerve damage.
The shingles vaccine, like most other vaccines, can cause some side effects. While noticeable, these side effects typically only last a few days at most and might not even present themselves.
Here is a brief list of the most common side effects experienced by Shingrix recipients.
Shingrix vaccine is made up of a component of the virus, not a live or killed virus. It is a recombinant varicella-zoster virus vaccine.
Beyond the standard reactions to the shingles vaccine, there are a few potentially dangerous reactions that recipients could have to the shot.
Below is a list of symptoms that indicate a vaccine recipient may be having an allergic reaction to the shingles vaccine. If you notice any of these signs, get medical attention immediately.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, you may be having an allergic reaction to the vaccine’s ingredients.
Additionally, if you’re taking other medications, be sure to tell your doctor about these medications or supplements before getting the shingles vaccine.
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine to those who meet the following criteria:
You can get the shingles vaccine:
The CDC has released the following guidelines for the shingles vaccine: “If you had shingles in the past, you can get Shingrix to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.”
This vaccine is recommended for adults that are 50 and older – CDC data shows that roughly 99% of adults over 40 have contracted chickenpox at some point in their lives.
Those who have never contracted the herpes zoster virus should not get the shingles vaccine. If you have never had chickenpox or shingles, there is no need to get this vaccine. Instead, you should talk to your doctor about the varicella vaccine.
In fact, taking this vaccine incurs more risk than provides protection for those who are varicella negative. Some additional cases where you shouldn’t get the shingles vaccine:
The shingles vaccine has been proven to be safe beyond a few minor side effects. Most people will benefit greatly from taking the shot, but in some specific cases, people should not take it.
It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of taking this vaccine. If you qualify to take this vaccine, and shingles and the associated complications are a concern, consider getting the shingles shot. Consulting a doctor online or in-person about the shingles vaccine is the next step. Make an appointment on PlushCare to get further questions answered about the shingles vaccine.
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