According to the Center for Disease Control, the side effects of shingles vaccine include redness, swelling, soreness, itching at the site of injection and headache. However, in some rare cases, serious side effects have been reported.
Shingles is a viral infection that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same one that causes chickenpox. After an attack of chickenpox, the virus remains in the nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. After a fairly significant period, the virus may reactivate as shingles.
The primary indication of the onset of shingles is usually burning or tingling pain, sometimes numbness or itching. With the period of days or weeks, a rash of fluid-filled blisters, similar to chickenpox appears, usually in a specific pattern of a band. The pain associated with shingles can be intense. Early treatment can reduce the time span of the shingles infection, and lower the chance of complications. Though shingles isn’t a life-threatening condition, there are vaccines that can help reduce the chances of getting it.
A VZV vaccine called Zostavax was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2006, for use in people around 60 years and older, who have had chickenpox. Studies showed that the administration of the vaccine to older people reduced the expected number of cases by half, and those who got it despite immunization, had milder symptoms and complications. The vaccine is only a preventive therapy, and is not effective as a treatment for someone who already has shingles or postherpetic neuralgia.
Side Effects at the Injection Site
All vaccines have the potential to cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the most common side effects of shingles vaccine experienced at the site of injection are:
- A lump
Some people develop a chickenpox-like rash near the place where they were vaccinated. In addition, one in 70 people experiences headache.
Other Side Effects
Occasionally, the side effects of a shingles vaccine may be some or any of these:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Flu like symptoms
- Arm or leg pain
- A rare side effect is an allergic reaction to the vaccine, which may cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing or development of rashes.
Serious Side Effects
One may or may not experience any side effects of shingles vaccine. The following side effects are very rare and it is difficult to say that they are caused by taking shingles vaccine.
- Polymyalgia rheumatica, a condition that causes pain in the neck, shoulders and hips. It also develops stiffness in the muscles.
- Heart problems such as heart attack and congestive heart failure (CHF)
- A rash that looks like chickenpox or shingles
If you experience such problems report to your health care provider immediately for proper diagnosis and further treatment.
Who Should Not Take Shingles Vaccine?
There are certain people who must not get the shingles vaccine. This group includes:
- People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
- Those who are allergic to any component of the vaccine
- Women who are or might be pregnant
- Those who are being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, including high-dose steroids
- Those who have weak immune system due to leukemia, lymphoma, blood or bone cancer
- People who have HIV/AIDS with T-cell counts below 200
Through a clinical trial that involved thousands of adults belonging to the age group “60 years and above”, it was found that Zostavax reduced the risk of shingles by about 51% and the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by 67%. The vaccine was most effective among people in the age group of 60 to 69 years. The vaccine is likely to be effective for at least six years, but may last much longer. While there is no cause for concern regarding the side effects of shingles vaccine, it is best to consult your doctor.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.