Shingles Vaccine Side Effects – Is It Even Worth Taking?

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects Introduction

In a very literal sense, we are surrounded by infections nearly all the time! All it takes is a little compromise from your immune system, and there you go – your body becomes infected with whatever bacterial or viral infection it is exposed to in no time.

To prevent this from happening and to ensure that you do not get infected by almost every other virus or bacteria you are exposed to, it is always better to stay safe. Now, you may not always know when you are about to get infected or attacked by any looming viral or bacterial infection, but ‘staying safe’ implies that you steer clear of any triggering factors that might infect your body.

Vaccine shots and boosters enhance your immunity and train your immune system and overall body to fight against these unwelcome yet serious infections in a much better and controlled manner.

Shingles, caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, affect a significant number of people, but not everyone. While it is common, not all individuals will experience shingles in their lifetime. The risk increases with age, especially in people over 50 or those with weakened immune systems. It is a very painful infection and therefore, everyone is better off without having to suffer from it by taking its vaccine when it is indicated.

Shingles – Your Worst Nightmare!

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects – What is Shingles?

To put it out simply, shingles is just the adult version of ‘chickenpox’ – remember the very own infection that affected nearly all of us during our school days and also got us a week (or more!) off from our school?

Shingles is simply the reactivation of the same virus, ‘Varicella Zoster’, which is responsible for causing chickenpox. Usually, when a person gets infected by this virus once – in the form of chickenpox- the virus gets inactivated and remains in that same state for the rest of that individual’s life. (1)

However, due to a compromised immune system or any other triggering factor, the Varicella Zoster virus might get activated again in a more enhanced and painful form of infection named ‘Shingles’. (2)

Clinical Presentation Of Shingles

Shingles produce blisters along the entire nerve root involved. The local inflammation and the overall effect produced by blistering are one of the major factors that cause this infection to become so excruciatingly painful for the people suffering from it.

Usually, it takes about two to four weeks for the infection to get resolved. Since only one side of the body is affected, Shingles take a major toll on the patient’s physical and mental activity. (3)

Some of the common presenting symptoms of Shingles include: (2, 3)

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach Issues
  • Postherpetic Neuralgia – one of the most serious complications, where the affected person experiences pain long after the infection has resolved.

Shingles Vaccine – The Ultimate Solution?

Although there are several medicamentous methods to keep the Shingles infection contained to prevent it from spreading, vaccination against the Shingles virus is considered to be the best method out there to prevent long term complications. (4)

Since Shingles is an infection that mainly affects people in their middle or older ages, it is recommended that people in this age group get the Varicella Zoster virus vaccine before it affects them for the worse. (5)

The reason is not just getting affected with the virus alone, but also because of its other complications that might affect people in the long term with unwanted consequences, namely, post-herpetic neuralgia.

Currently, there are two popular vaccines available for prevention of the Shingles viral infection, namely:

Zostavax (or Zoster Vaccine Live)

Among these two vaccines, Zostavax was the first one to get approved in 2006. However, it had questionable outcomes, such as promoting and providing efficacy to some people), which made it a not-so-good option for providing long-term or even lasting immunity to the people who were injected with it. (5)

Shingrix (by Glaxosmithkline)

Then came in the Shingrix vaccine that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017. The Shingrix vaccine has been recommended for adults above the age of 50 since its very first day. (6)

Due to improved efficacy and a much better-tolerated response, it is now the Shingrix vaccine that has been approved and recommended as the preferred vaccine for Herpes Zoster virus in the immunocompromised masses that are aged 50 and above.

How Is The Shingles Vaccine Given?

The Shingrix or the recombinant zoster vaccine is given as part of a two dose regimen. These two doses of 0.5 ml each are given approximately two to six months apart. (6)

The vaccine is given intramuscularly in the upper deltoid region, just like any other vaccine.

The Shingrix vaccine is indicated for the following groups of people:

  • Shingrix is recommended for adults aged 50 years and older, regardless of past shingles or varicella vaccination history. It is also recommended for adults aged 19 years and older with immunocompromise due to disease or therapy, providing broader protection against shingles.
  • Older adults over the ages of 50 and so on. (7)

The Side Effects Of Shingles Vaccine – An Alarming Sign?

Nearly every other medicine or vaccine is associated with a small or large number of side effects. However, these side effects do not imply that the usage of the medicine or vaccine is useless and that it would only harm the people getting it.

In most cases, only a small number of people are affected by the side effects of a particular drug.

Even then, several ways could be implemented to make sure that such sensitive people do not suffer from these unwanted consequences in the long term. These methods include taking a painkiller before you get your vaccine shot and icing the injection site with a cold compress for a short time after getting it.

In the context of the Shingles vaccine, there are also some reports of side effects that people experienced soon after getting the shot, although these side effects are rare. However, a small fraction of people suffered from the side effects, particularly the appearance of the dermatomal rashes of this vaccine after the second dose rather than the first one. (8) A brief overview of these side effects, along with the probable reason behind their occurrence, is mentioned below:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Swelling or redness at the injection site
  • Myalgia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Shivering
  • GI Upset

Shingrix’s side effects, such as pain at the injection site, muscle pain, fatigue, headache, shivering, fever, and stomach issues, are typically more common after the second dose. These reactions are a sign of the immune response to the vaccine.

The reason why these side effects occur is mainly because of the ongoing immunity-building reactions that are taking place inside the body. Usually, it takes around 3 to 4 days after getting the shot, which is the probable reason the side effects take place for this short period only. (9)

These side effects were also seen to be reported within 30 days of the administration of the vaccine.

Usually, the side effects were seen to resolve within a period of 2 to 3 days. The symptoms were self-resolving in nature and were seen to benefit from local treatment remedies such as applying ice packs or cold compresses on the swollen injection site or taking over-the-counter painkillers to help relieve the pain.

Is It Okay To Get The Shingles Vaccine?

The side effects highlighted above should not in any way alter or hinder the process behind getting the vaccine. Shingrix has shown to be over 90% effective in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of shingles. Its efficacy remains above 85% for at least the first four years after the final dose.

However, if you have any underlying health condition, it is always best to consult your physician before getting the vaccine to save yourself from unwanted reactions or side effects.

There has been no such evidence where the side effects of the Shingles vaccine altered with the immunity that this vaccine provided. It has, so far, displayed only beneficial effects in terms of building up the immunity of individuals, with an efficacy up to 91.3%. (10)

Therefore, it is okay to get the shingles vaccine if it is indicated in your case.

Conclusion

Shingles is an infectious disease that affects middle-aged and elderly people. Because it involves nerve root ganglions, it could become an extremely painful condition once a person is affected by it.

To make sure that people have the necessary immune response to combat this painful disease, it is best if people take the recommended two doses of the vaccine that are indicated for all people above the age of 50.

The Shingles vaccine does not only provide immunity against this infection but also ensures that people get saved from the impending complications of this disease for good.

See Also

Does Medicare Cover Shingles Shots?

Acetaminophen Side Effects

Bupropion Side Effects

Trazodone Side Effects

Atorvastatin Side Effects

FDA Vaccine Approval Process

FDA Approval Process

FDA Grants

What is a Breach of HIPAA?

Current Version
March 10, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.
March 22, 2023
Written By
Andleeb Asghar, PharmD
  1. Nair PA, Patel BC. Herpes Zoster. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 17]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441824/
  2. Shingles: Overview [Internet]. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2019 [cited 2023 Feb 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279624/
  3. Presentation and Management of Herpes Zoster (Shingles) in the Geriatric Population – PMC [Internet]. [cited 2023 Feb 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684190/
  4. Harbecke R, Cohen JI, Oxman MN. Herpes Zoster Vaccines. J Infect Dis. 2021 Sep 30;224(12 Suppl 2):S429–42.
  5. Effectiveness of the herpes zoster vaccine Zostavax® in Stockholm County, Sweden – PubMed [Internet]. [cited 2023 Feb 18]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31230884/
  6. Maltz F, Fidler B. Shingrix: A New Herpes Zoster Vaccine. Pharm Ther. 2019 Jul;44(7):406–33.
  7. Shingrix: A New Herpes Zoster Vaccine – PMC [Internet]. [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6590925/
  8. Dermatomal rash after Shingrix vaccination: cause or coincidence? – PMC [Internet]. [cited 2023 Feb 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9373764/
  9. CDC. Shingles vaccination is the best way to help protect yourself against [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2023 [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html
  10. Shingrix: A New Herpes Zoster Vaccine – PMC [Internet]. [cited 2023 Feb 20]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6590925/

 

Follow us