An estimated 1 million people in the United States are infected with shingles each year. This easily transmissible infection can affect anyone, causing a painful, blistering rash, and for some, it can lead to dangerous health complications. Fortunately, there is a proven vaccine called Shingrix that can help prevent it. In this blog, we will discuss the benefits and risks of the shingles vaccine and who should consider getting it to boost their immunity.
What is the Shingrix vaccine?
The shingles vaccine is a non-live, subunit vaccine that helps to prevent shingles by enabling the body to fight off the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that causes both shingles and the chickenpox virus.
What are the benefits of the shingles vaccine?
Shingles can cause severe pain, itching, and discomfort, as well as cause health complications like vision loss, neurological problems, and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a syndrome resulting in nerve damage. Additionally, shingles can have very serious and life-threatening consequences for older adults and people with compromised immune systems. The shingles vaccine significantly reduces your risk of getting shingles, of experiencing these complications, and of spreading it to other people who are especially vulnerable. Shingrix is more than 90% effective in preventing infection.
Who should get the shingles vaccine?
The CDC recommends Shingrix for adults aged 50 years and older even if:
- They have had shingles in the past
- They have received the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- They have received the older Zostavax vaccine.
- They have had chickenpox in the past (Having chickenpox does not make you immune to shingles, because the varicella zoster virus remains in the body after recovery and can reactivate later in life.)
The shingles vaccine is also recommended for adults aged 19 years and older who are immunocompromised.
If you are due for your Shingrix vaccine, schedule an appointment at one of our trusted, Carolina-local pharmacies.
Who should not get the shingles vaccine?
The Shingrix vaccine is generally safe and effective for most people, but there are some who should not get vaccinated. This includes:
- People who have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or to any of its components
- Women who are pregnant
What is the Shingrix vaccine schedule?
For adults 50 years and older: The shingles vaccine should be given in two doses, separated by 2 to 6 months.
For immunocompromised adults: Two doses are recommended for adults aged 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems. If needed, the second dose can be given 1 to 2 months after the first.
How many years does Shingrix last?
Protection against shingles lasts at least 7 years after a person’s vaccination series. However, some recent studies show that immunity could remain strong even longer—up to 10 years.
How often should you get the Shingrix vaccine?
The CDC currently recommends getting the Shingrix vaccine one time as a two-dose series.
What happens if you don’t get a second Shingrix shot?
While there are no direct adverse effects of getting just one dose, it is important to get both doses to ensure maximum protection against shingles infection. If you do miss the recommended window for getting the second dose, it is still advised that you get the second dose as soon as possible.
What are the shingles vaccine side effects?
Like any vaccine, Shingrix can cause temporary, mild to moderate side effects. The most common include:
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Muscle pain
- Stomach pain or nausea
How soon do side effects start after Shingrix?
The side effects of Shingrix typically start within a few hours of receiving the vaccination and usually last no more than 2–3 days.
What helps with the side effects of the shingles vaccine?
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve any pain or discomfort associated with the shingles vaccine. A cool compress can also help reduce swelling and discomfort at the injection site.
Are there serious side effects?
Serious side effects from the Shingrix vaccine are very rare, but they can occur. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare but serious condition that has been reported after vaccination with Shingrix. Symptoms of GBS can include muscle weakness, tingling in the extremities, and difficulty breathing. While also extremely rare, allergic reactions to the vaccine are possible.
When should I see a doctor?
Most side effects of the Shingrix vaccine are mild and go away on their own within a few days. If you experience a severe allergic reaction or ongoing symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
What to expect of the shingles vaccine
How effective is the shingles vaccine?
Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN in adults over 50 years, and 68–91% effective in immunocompromised adults (depending on the immune system condition).
How long does the Shingrix vaccine last?
The Shingrix vaccine provides long-lasting protection against shingles—providing immunity for at least 7 years and possibly up to 10 years.
How long after the shingles vaccine are you contagious?
Because Shingrix only uses a part of the virus to mimic infection, you can not be contagious to others from receiving the vaccine.
Overall, the benefits of the Shingrix vaccine far outweigh the risks. By getting vaccinated, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing shingles and help prevent its spread to vulnerable populations.
If you are unsure if the Shingrix vaccine is right for you, contact one of our pharmacists at Thomas Seashore Drugs—they can help you make an informed decision about the best course of action for your individual needs.
Take this important step toward maintaining your immunity and keeping yourself and others safe by scheduling a vaccine appointment on our website or simply visiting one of our local Carolina pharmacies.