What Are the Potential Side Effects Of the Shingles Vaccine?

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a condition caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus (VZV); it’s the same virus that causes chickenpox. VZV occurs after a breakout of the primary form of the virus (chickenpox) goes dormant, then later, becomes reactive in the body as shingles.

The shingles vaccination—which is a two-dose injection given in the upper arm—is the only way to prevent shingles or complications from shingles. Studies show that the shingles vaccine will provide 90% protection against shingles.

Although the shingles vaccine has been shown to be safe, there are some common shingles vaccine side effects and contraindications.

shingles vaccine side effects

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Who Should and Should Not Get a Shingles Vaccine?

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that people who should receive the shingles vaccine include:

  • Adults who are healthy, aged 50 and older
  • People who have not had shingles
  • Those who are unsure if they have had chickenpox. Studies show that over 99% of Americans over age 40 have had chickenpox, this includes those who can’t remember having the disease.
  • People who have had shingles (once the rash has completely cleared up). Studies have shown that some people can get shingles twice, or even three times and the risk of getting shingles again is about the same as the chances of getting them in the first place.
  • Those who received Zostavax (a shingles vaccine that is no longer available in the United States as of November 2020). 

What to Do If You've Been Vaccinated With Zostavax

If you have been vaccinated with Zostavax—which is no longer available in the United States—be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to find out the best time to get the Food and Drug Administration approved vaccine Shingrix.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

According to the CDC, some people should not be given the shingles vaccine, including those who:

  • Have had allergic reactions to the vaccine
  • Tested negative for varicella-zoster virus (VZV) immunity (this group should get a chickenpox vaccine instead of a shingles vaccine)
  • Currently have shingles
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have a severe or moderate illness that is considered acute, such as a respiratory infection
  • Have a temperature of 101.3 degrees F or higher

Potential Side Effects

Studies have shown that the shingles vaccine is safe, but temporary side effects may occur after getting the vaccine.

Common side effects from the shingles vaccine usually last no longer than two to three days, they include:

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

According to the CDC, approximately one out of six people who received the shingles vaccine reported that they were unable to perform normal activities for two to three days due to side effects.

The side effects were more prevalent in younger people and they resolved on their own—without any type of medical intervention— in two to three days. The CDC reports that some people react to one of the two doses of the shingles vaccine and others react adversely to both doses.

A Word From Verywell

If you have side effects from the shingles vaccine, the CDC recommends reporting them to the Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). If you report symptoms to your healthcare provider, the side effects report may be filed for you by your healthcare provider.

You can file a report yourself by calling 1-800-822-7967. If you have any questions about the shingles vaccine or are concerned about any adverse effects you are having, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider.

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4 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster). clinical overview. Updated October 5, 2020.

  2. Tricco AC, Zarin W, Cardoso R, et al. Efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of herpes zoster vaccines in adults aged 50 and older: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online October 25, 2018:k4029. doi:10.1136/bmj.k4029  

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles vaccination. Updated January 25, 2018.

  4. Yawn BP, Wollan PC, Kurland MJ, St. Sauver JL, Saddier P. Herpes zoster recurrences more frequent than previously reported. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2011;86(2):88-93. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0618