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The shingles vaccine
is an injection to protect you from the varicella-zoster virus. This virus causes chickenpox. After you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body for several years without causing any symptoms. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again. The active virus travels along a nerve to your skin and causes a painful rash. The rash can be dangerous if it is near one of your eyes. A shingles outbreak can also cause chronic nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN can last a long time after you heal from shingles.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have signs of a severe allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, swelling in your throat, or hives.
Call your doctor if:
- You have a high fever or behavior changes that concern you.
- You have questions or concerns about the shingles vaccine.
When to get the shingles vaccine:
You can get the shingles vaccine even if you do not know if you had chickenpox. The vaccine comes in 2 forms. Your healthcare provider will tell you which form is right for you:
- The recombinant zoster vaccine may be used if you are 50 years or older. The vaccine is given in 2 doses, 2 to 6 months apart. You can also get this vaccine if you got the live zoster vaccine before. This vaccine does not contain any live virus.
- The live zoster vaccine may be used if you are 60 years or older. The vaccine is given in 1 dose. The vaccine may also relieve pain if you get shingles even after you get the vaccine.
Do not get the shingles vaccine if:
- You have any severe allergy, or are allergic to any part of the vaccine.
- You had a severe allergic reaction to a shingles vaccine.
- You have a weak immune system, such as from cancer or cancer treatment. You may be able to get the recombinant zoster vaccine. Your provider will tell you if this vaccine is safe for you.
Wait to get the shingles vaccine if:
- You have a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding, or you think you may be pregnant. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to come back for the vaccine.
Risks of the shingles vaccine:
You may develop a rash that looks like chickenpox near the injection site. The site may also be red, sore, swollen, or itch. The live vaccine has a small risk of causing shingles. You may get shingles even after you receive either vaccine. You may have an allergic reaction. Rarely, this can be life-threatening. The live zoster vaccine may be harmful to an unborn baby. Do not plan to become pregnant for at least 1 month after you get this vaccine.
Apply a warm compress
to the area to relieve swelling and pain. If you develop a chickenpox-like rash near the injection site, cover the rash until it goes away.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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