The Shingles Vaccine
What You Need to Know
- What is shingles?
- The shingles vaccine
- Some people should not get the shingles vaccine or should wait.
- What are the risks from the shingles vaccine?
- What if there is a moderate or severe reaction?
- How can I learn more?
What is Shingles?
A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts from 2 to 4 weeks. Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. Very rarely, a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death.
For about 1 person in 5, severe pain can continue even long after the rash clears up. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia.
Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Only someone who has had chickenpox – or, rarely, has gotten chickenpox vaccine – can get shingles. The virus stays in your body, and can cause shingles many years later.
You can't catch shingles from another person with shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox (or chickenpox vaccine) could get chickenpox from someone with shingles. This is not very common.
Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older than in younger people. It is also more common in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.
At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles.
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