Side effects of the shingles vaccine

By Andy Stergachis, PhD, BPharm Dec 28, 2020 • 3 min.

Shingles is a common disease, affecting about 1 out of 3 adults during their lifetime.

Shingles is most common among older adults. However, shingles can also occur in healthy younger adults and in children. Those with immune systems that have been weakened by HIV, AIDS, cancer or treatment with certain drugs are also at an increased risk of getting shingles. Shingles causes a painful rash and blisters and can lead to serious complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.

The shingles vaccine

The CDC recommends Shingrix to prevent shingles and its complications. Shingrix, approved by the FDA in 2017, provides stronger protection against shingles compared to Zostavax. Zostavax was the first FDA-approved vaccine for shingles, and it is no longer available in the United States. An advantage to Shingrix is that it is a not a live virus vaccine. It is produced from part of the virus.

Side effects

You may experience some common side effects from the shingles vaccine. Common side effects to the shingles vaccine are usually mild to moderate in intensity and usually resolve quickly on their own within 2 to 3 days. In clinical studies of the shingles vaccine, about 1 in 10 adults reported some pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. Some people also report experiencing muscle pain, tiredness, headache, shivering, fever and upset stomach after receiving the shingles vaccine.

Serious adverse events following the shingles vaccine are rare. In very rare cases, people have developed a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis to the shingles vaccine. You should not get Shingrix if you are allergic to any of its ingredients or have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of Shingrix.

Safety monitoring

After the Shingrix vaccine became available, the CDC and the FDA began monitoring its safety through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). In 2019, the CDC reported that VAERS detected no unexpected patterns of serious or long-term side effects. The CDC and FDA continuously monitor all vaccines through reports to VAERS for potential vaccine safety problems.

The shingles vaccine has been closely studied. It has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated. Common side effects for most vaccines are mild and include pain, swelling or redness where the shot was given. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions about vaccine safety. Talk with your healthcare provider, including your pharmacist, about your health history, including past illnesses and treatments, as well as any allergies, to find out which vaccines are recommended for you.

Published December 2020.