Shingles vaccine downside?
May 31, 2012 9:39 AM   Subscribe

What are the dangers of being vaccinated against shingles?

I had chicken pox quite badly when I was a teen. Now that I'm old enough to worry about shingles, I want to get the vaccine. What are the risks? Does anyone have any experience with the vaccine that would be enlightening? What do you know?
posted by Jenna Brown to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The CDC says:
No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine.

The vaccine has been tested in about 20,000 people aged 60 years old and older. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. CDC, working with the FDA, will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccine after it is in general use.

It is safe to be around infants and young children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems after you get the shingles vaccine. There is no documentation of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the shingles vaccine (which contains varicella zoster virus).

Some people who get the shingles vaccine will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the place where they were vaccinated. As a precaution, this rash should be covered until it disappears.

The shingles vaccine does not contain thimerosal (a preservative containing mercury.
posted by jedicus at 9:52 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: However, there are some people who shouldn't get the shingles vaccine, so be sure to check that before getting the vaccine.
posted by jedicus at 9:54 AM on May 31, 2012

Are you over 60? For some reason the vaccination seems to only be recommended for those over 60.

I have shingles right now and the doctor did not say that I would be able to get vaccinated afterwards (I'm 31). She also said that I was not contagious unless someone touched an open sore that had not crusted over. The information online just confuses me more.
posted by mokeydraws at 10:10 AM on May 31, 2012

Just a personal data point: I had shingles a few years ago--horrid misery for weeks. Avoid it if you can.
I got the vaccine a year ago with no ill effects. No shingles since, for what that's worth.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:11 AM on May 31, 2012

New CDC guidelines say the shot can be given to persons over the age of 50.
posted by Gungho at 10:24 AM on May 31, 2012

I'm going to sign up for one when I turn 50 later this year. My uncle died from Shingles, so you don't want to screw around with it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:27 AM on May 31, 2012

I don't know much about chickenpox, so bear with me here, but the severity of your chickenpox may not affect the severity of your recurrence as shingles. I had a legendarily horrible case of chickenpox as a kid, and shingles at 27 that were more of a nuisance than anything else.

You should totally get the shot if you and your doctor are good with that, though. Why bother dealing with shingles if you can avoid it?
posted by Coatlicue at 10:28 AM on May 31, 2012

I was vaccinated when my Medicare began. The site of the shot was sore for several days; that's all.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:33 AM on May 31, 2012

If you have any other vaccines or boosters scheduled soon, make sure you tell your doctor, so he/she can take them into account when scheduling your shingles vaccine: "live" vaccines that aren't given together usually have to be given a set number of weeks apart.
posted by Wylla at 11:01 AM on May 31, 2012

I tried to get the vaccine. I called my doctor's office and was told to ask my insurance company. I called my insurance company and asked them if they'd cover it, since I was only 51; they said yes. When I asked for it the next time I was at the doctor's office, though, they called the insurance company and were told it would not pay for it for anyone under 65. It will cost $220 to get the shingles vaccine at the drug store, without insurance covering it. I'm planning to do it this summer, since most of the people I've known who had shingles were under the age of fifty.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 11:21 AM on May 31, 2012

Shingles vaccine is licensed (by FDA) for people 50+ and recommended (by CDC) for people 60+. The higher age on the recommendation is attributable to historically limited supply of the vaccine (thus, public health priority on saving it for people who are older & more likely to actually get shingles), and also the fact that booster doses don't appear to work so it's better to get it closer to when you're likely to have the disease. (I know some people have noted cases in themselves or friends well under 60; this does happen but population risk rises with age.) A doctor can vaccinate you off-label at any age, but as someone noted above, insurance may decline to cover it in that case.

Fun fact: shingles (zoster) vaccine is the same stuff as chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, just way more of the active ingredient in each dose. It takes a bigger goose to get your immune system to sit up and take notice as you get older.
posted by lakeroon at 12:40 PM on May 31, 2012

My mom was vaccinated but ended up getting shingles anyway--the vaccine is not as effective as one might wish (it basically cuts your risk of getting shingles in half). She had no side effects from the vaccine, but the disease is pretty bad. Anyway the potential side effects of the vaccine are nothing compared to the potential effects of shingles (blindness, paralysis, years of incurable nerve pain...).
posted by phoenixy at 1:50 PM on May 31, 2012

Hmmn. If one has already had the shingles does that build antibodies and thus resistance in the future?
posted by Gungho at 4:49 AM on June 1, 2012

I had the shingles vaccine two days ago. The afternoon of that day I started breaking out in an itchy rash (hives?) on both feet, which by now has spread to my ankles and knees. I have had no soreness or rash at the injection site. My doctor has me taking oral Benadryl, but it doesn't seem to be helping. I wanted the shingles vaccine because my aunt had shingles and it was a nightmare. Now I'm sorry I ever asked for it.
posted by Joleta at 11:55 PM on August 3, 2012

Hi Gungho. I just happened to browse by here again and there was a study just out in the last month or so that suggested there is no benefit in getting shingles vaccine after shingles itself. Small study, though.
posted by lakeroon at 7:18 PM on August 11, 2012

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