Shingles Vaccine Side Effects

A sore arm and flu-like symptoms are common

Common side effects of the shingles vaccine, called Shingrix, are mild pain and redness at the injection site. Some may experience fatigue, headache, and fever. Shingles vaccine side effects may last for a few days but are not serious. More serious side effects, like an allergic reaction, are rare.

It's important to be aware of the potential side effects of the shingles vaccine, but the benefits of vaccination almost always outweigh concern about side effects.

The shingles vaccination is the only way to prevent shingles, also known as herpes zoster. It's also the only means of preventing related complications, such as nerve pain.

This article looks at shingles vaccine side effects. It explains them alongside information about shingles symptoms and complications, who should and shouldn't get the shingles vaccine, and things you can do to recover from shingles vaccine side effects if you experience them.

shingles vaccine side effects

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Common Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine

Studies have shown that the shingles vaccine is safe. Common side effects of the shingles vaccine include:

  • Mild to moderate pain in the injection arm
  • Redness and swelling at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

When They Start, How Long They Last

The shingles vaccine is given in a two-shot series. You may experience side effects after the first, second, or both shots. Most of the time, these symptoms are mild and occur immediately following vaccination. They typically only last for two or three days.

Side effects of the shingles vaccine are more common in younger people, and might interrupt your normal daily activities for a few days.

This may seem like a downside of the shingles vaccine, but remember that these symptoms are a result of the creation of a strong shingles defense within your body.

It is OK to take Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) after a shingles vaccine to relieve symptoms. Rest and plenty of fluids may help, too.

Rare Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine

In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis may occur. This can be a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis after receiving the shingles vaccine include:


Typically, these side effects appear immediately or within a few minutes of vaccination; your vaccination provider may be present. If you experience them after leaving the office, call 911.

Can the Shingles Shot Cause Guillain-Barré Syndrome?

Though rare, but Guillain-Barré syndrome can occur with both the shingles vaccine and the shingles virus itself.

Symptoms of this serious autoimmune disorder include a loss of sensation and muscle paralysis that tends to come on quickly, typically spreading up from your lower extremities.

It can be life-threatening, so contact a healthcare provider immediately if you think you may have symptoms.

Who Should Get the Shingles Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you should get a shingles vaccine if you:

  • Are an adult aged 50 and older
  • Have never had shingles
  • Have had shingles before (some people can get shingles two or three times, so getting vaccinated is still important)
  • Aren't sure whether you've had chickenpox
  • Have been previously vaccinated with the Zostavax shingles vaccine (no longer available in the United States)
  • Are age 19 or older and are (or will be) immunodeficient or immunosuppressed because of disease or therapy

Weighing the Risks vs. Benefits

The vaccine to prevent shingles will help you to avoid shingles symptoms, which in most cases are quite mild but may cause intense pain in some people.

Shingles symptoms come in two stages: the prodromal stage and the eruptive stage. In the first stage, your symptoms may include:

About three to five days later, you develop a prickly and painful pimple-like rash. These pimples turn into blisters during this eruptive stage, and your skin may be red and swollen. Shingles sores also can affect your mouth, which is another symptom the vaccine can prevent.

Shingles isn't generally life-threatening. It can be, though, if your immune system is compromised. During an outbreak and after the rash clears up, some people may experience complications that require immediate medical attention.

Common ones include:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia (PNH): Damaged nerves cause lingering pain for three months or more.
  • Bacterial skin infections: When shingles blisters pop, bacteria can get in.
  • Eye damage: One branch of the trigeminal nerve goes to the eye. Damage there can lead to eye damage, which can be severe.

While you may experience side effects with the vaccine, the benefits outweigh the risks of shingles symptoms and complications in most people.

If you were vaccinated with Zostavax—a shingles vaccine that is no longer being given—ask your healthcare provider about getting the Shingrix vaccine.

Who Shouldn't Get a Shingles Vaccine

The CDC says some people shouldn't get the shingles vaccine. That includes those who:

  • Have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix
  • Tested negative for VZV immunity (which means you haven't had chickenpox and should get the chickenpox vaccine instead)
  • Currently have shingles
  • Are pregnant
  • Have a severe or moderate acute illness, such as a respiratory infection

Your healthcare provider can answer any questions you have about whether the vaccine is safe for you.

Summary

Shingles comes from the same virus as chickenpox. The shingles vaccine is the only way to prevent it.

The shingles rash can be intensely painful. Some people develop complications, including lingering nerve pain and skin infections.

Most people can be safely vaccinated, barring a severe allergy to the vaccine. Your healthcare provider can advise you, if you have any concerns about safety.

Side effects may make you feel sick (and may interrupt your daily routine) for a few days after being vaccinated.

A Word From Verywell

If you have side effects from the shingles vaccine, the CDC recommends reporting them to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) by calling 1-800-822-7967. Your healthcare provider may also file this report for you.

If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider about them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often do you need to get the shingles vaccine?

    Shingrix (the shingles vaccine) is a two-dose series. You should get the doses between two and six months apart.

  • Can you get the shingles vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?

    Yes, it is safe for you to get a shingles vaccine at the same time as many others, including the COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Your healthcare provider will want to use different sites on your body for the shots, though, so you may be sore in more than one arm.

  • Can you get shingles after receiving the vaccine?

    Clinical trials have shown that Shingrix prevents shingles in at least 91% of people 50 and older. That age group is the most at-risk of developing shingles.

12 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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By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.