Diabetes and the Shingles Vaccine: Is It Safe?

The shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is safe for people living with diabetes—both type 1 and type 2. People living with diabetes are at increased risk of getting shingles, having more severe shingles, and complications like postherpetic neuralgia, lasting pain where the shingles rash had been.

Shingles is a reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox, typically with a very painful rash. The shingles vaccine can help reduce the risk of getting shingles and its complications.

This article will discuss the safety of the Shingrix vaccine for people with diabetes, possible side effects, and where to get vaccinated. 

Man with diabetes getting shingles vaccine at clinic

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Is Shingles Vaccine Safe and Effective for People With Diabetes?

Yes, the shingles vaccine is safe and effective for people with diabetes. Vaccines must pass rigorous development and testing procedures to demonstrate their safety for authorized use in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults age 50 and over get two doses of Shingrix as prescribed to help prevent shingles and its complications. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices specifically notes people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes should receive the Shingrix vaccine.

People 19 and older who are immunocompromised (have conditions that weaken their immune system or get therapies that weaken the immune system) should also get the vaccine. This may include people living with diabetes. If you are younger than 50, talk with a healthcare provider about whether you should get the shingles vaccine.

In healthy people over age 50, the shingles vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. In immunocompromised individuals, a 2022 study found that Shingrix had a 64.1% effectiveness rate at preventing shingles.

Which Type Should People With Diabetes Get?

There used to be two shingles vaccines available in the United States: Zostavax and Shingrix. As of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the United States. Shingrix, however, is safe and effective. The Shingrix vaccine is given in two doses two to six months apart.

People who previously got the Zostavax vaccine should now get the Shingrix vaccine. Zostavax was much less effective at preventing shingles than Shingrix, and what protection Zostavax gave waned within five years. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting Shingrix if you had Zostavax.

Are There Any Side Effects of Taking the Shingles Vaccine?

As with any medication or vaccine, the shingles vaccine has possible side effects. The shot helps your body develop an immune defense against shingles. Any side effects you might have are temporary and usually resolve within two to three days.

You might have side effects from the first shot, the second shot, or both shots. You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen).

Common side effects can include:

  • Redness and swelling at the shot site
  • Sore arm and mild to moderate pain
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Shivering/feeling cold
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a nervous system disorder, is a condition that has reported as developing, although rarely, after Shingrix. However, the risk of developing GBS also is slightly elevated if you get shingles.

Talk with a healthcare provider about the shingles vaccine's possible risks and side effects and what to do if you experience any.

Risks of Shingles for People With Diabetes

Diabetes impairs immune system function. Because of this, it is a significant risk factor for shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have also been reported to increase the severity of the course of shingles.

Quality of life post-shingles is worse for people with diabetes and shingles improves more slowly than for those without diabetes.

Postherpetic neuralgia is more common in those with diabetes than in other people who have had shingles. This long-term post-shingles nerve pain occurs after the rash is gone. It can be so painful that it impairs daily life.

What Should People Avoid Before Getting the Shingles Vaccine?

Tell a healthcare provider if you are on any medications that affect the immune system, such as chemotherapy, corticosteroids like prednisone, or any other drug. Ask them if you should still get the shot. Do not stop taking the prescribed medications without your healthcare provider’s approval.

According to the CDC, you should not get the shot if:

  • You have had a severe allergic reaction to any previous vaccine or a dose of Shingrix
  • You currently have shingles; you need to wait until the rash is gone
  • You are currently pregnant

Where Does the Shingles Vaccine Come From?

Shingrix is made from a single protein, glycoprotein E, that comes from the outer shell of the herpes zoster virus (the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles). The vaccine contains no live or inactivated whole virus.

Shingrix also contains an adjuvant—a substance that helps the body create a stronger immune response, so the vaccine works better. The adjuvant in Shingrix is a natural fat compound extracted from a Chilean soapbark tree.

Where Can You Get the Shingles Vaccine?

Your healthcare provider’s office may give the shot, or you can get it at a pharmacy (freestanding or inside a larger store or supermarket). A vaccine locator is provided on the Shingrix website.

You may need a prescription to get the shingles vaccine at a pharmacy if your insurance plan or state requires one. Always call the pharmacy ahead of time to ensure they have it in stock and see if you need an appointment.

The vaccine may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. Call your insurance company and ask about cost and the percentage your plan covers. You may be responsible for a small portion of the cost (co-pay or coinsurance).

Ask a healthcare provider about vaccine assistance programs if you cannot afford the vaccine and do not have insurance. Some drug companies provide vaccines to adults who cannot afford them.


People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for shingles and its complications, but can be protected by the Shingrix shingles vaccine. The vaccine is safe and effective, with minimal side effects.

You can get the shingles vaccine at a healthcare provider's office or at many pharmacies. Check with your insurance plan to see if it is covered and any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur.

A Word From Verywell

The Shingrix vaccine has been extensively researched and tested. If you are apprehensive about it or wonder if it will interact with any of your medications, talk with a healthcare provider. Let them know everything you are taking and discuss whether the shingles vaccine is appropriate for you at this time.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should people with type 2 diabetes get the shingles vaccine?

    Yes, they should, unless there is a medical reason not to. Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of getting shingles and increases the severity of shingles should you get it, so it’s a good idea to get the vaccine. It reduces the risk of getting shingles and its complications.

  • Does having type 2 diabetes increase the risk of side effects from the shingles vaccine?

    No, it does not increase the risk of side effects from the vaccine. Not everyone will experience side effects from the shingles vaccine.





7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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