The Shingles Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know About the Side Effects

The shingles vaccine, also known as the herpes zoster vaccine, is recommended for adults over 50 years of age, and it is essential for people who have a weakened immune system. This article will discuss the shingles vaccine and its side effects.

When do I need to take the Shingles Vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease.

How does the Shingles Vaccine Work?

The Shingles Vaccine works by protecting you from the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in your nerve cells. The Shingles Vaccine helps your body build immunity to VZV, and it is this immunity that helps to prevent shingles.

Which Shingles Vaccine should I take?

Two vaccines are licensed and recommended to prevent shingles in the United States. Zoster vaccine live (ZVL, Zostavax) has been in use since 2006. Recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix) has been in use since 2017 and is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) as the preferred shingles vaccine.

What should I know about Shingrix?

The Shingrix vaccine is a new, improved version of the shingles vaccine. It is more than 90% effective at preventing herpes zoster, and it is recommended for adults over 50 years of age. Shingrix is given in two doses, spaced two to six months apart. In adults 50 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of Shingles. It was also seen in adults 70 years and older; Shingrix was 89% effective.

What are the side effects of Shingrix?

Most people get a sore arm with mild or moderate pain after getting Shingrix.

Other common side effects include:

  • Pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site
  • Muscle pain
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Stomach pain

Although severe allergic reactions are not common after getting Shingrix, it is crucial to seek advice from a healthcare professional to determine whether the vaccine is safe for you beforehand.

Some of these allergic reactions include:

  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face/throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

If you experience any of these reactions, seek medical attention immediately.

What are some of the best treatments available for Shingles?

Still contemplating whether you should take the Shingles Vaccine or are allergic to the ingredients in it?

Here are some alternate ways for you to treat shingles:

  • Antiviral medicines – Acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are available to treat shingles and shorten the length and severity of the illness.
  • Healing baths – Pour 1 to 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal or cornstarch into lukewarm bathwater and soak for 15 to 20 minutes. It can ease pain from shingles, blisters and calm itchiness.
  • Over-the-counter medication – Start with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You can find these over the counter on pharmacy store shelves, and they include popular medicines like Advil, Tylenol & Aleve.
  • Topical treatments – There are a variety of topical treatments, including topical acyclovir 5% cream, lidocaine, and capsaicin, that can be used to treat shingles.
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