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Shingles Vaccine Side Effects

author image Edward Thomas
Combining his medical and journalism experience, Edward Thomas has been writing professionally since 1990 and currently provides content for several websites including Thomas was a featured health writer for the Knoxville Sentinal for 7 years and holds a Masters in Nursing from the University of Tennessee.
Shingles Vaccine Side Effects
Close-up of syringe in doctor's hand. Photo Credit: ERproductions Ltd/Blend Images/Getty Images

The shingles vaccine, brand name Zostavax, was licensed in 2006. The vaccine is comprised of the live virus that causes shingles. Shingles is a medical condition that occurs when a dormant strand of the varicella-zoster virus becomes active. The shingles vaccine is recommended for people over 60, according to According to the Centers for Disease Control, no serious side effects have been identified with the use of the shingles vaccine.

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Headaches are a common side effect that occurs after a vaccine is given. There is no study to indicate why this occurs, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 70 people suffer from a headache after receiving the shingles vaccine. Pain medication such as Advil or Aspirin can help relieve this side effect.

Pain and Redness at the Injection Site

Because the shingles vaccine is administered through an injection, the body is subjected to possible infections from small bacteria. Redness and pain is a side effect that is commonly reported from those receiving the shingles vaccine. This side effects is contributed to irritation around the injection site, small bacteria entering the body and causing a small infection or an allergic reaction to the equipment used to administer the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control advises that 1 in 3 people experience pain and/or redness after receiving the shingles vaccine.

Itching and Swelling

Just as pain and redness may appear around the injection site, so can swelling and an itching sensation. This side effects occurs for the same reason as the prior: irritation, infection or an allergic reaction. Swelling should subside within a few hours, however, the itching sensation may take several days as the injection site heals.

Allergic Reactions

Although a severe allergic reaction is very rare, it can occur. A severe allergic reaction to the shingles vaccine will often occur within one hour of the injection. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include a fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing, paleness, weakness and swelling. Immediate medical attention is required if this side effect occurs.

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