Common side effects from the shingles vaccine can include flu-like symptoms and irritation at the injection site. Though rare, some people can develop a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Shingles is a painful rash caused by varicella zoster, the same virus responsible for chickenpox.

If you had chickenpox as a child, the virus hasn’t completely gone away. It stays dormant in your body and can reemerge many years later as shingles. Older age increases the risk of shingles.

The shingles vaccine is over 90% effective at preventing shingles. And if you do get shingles despite getting the vaccine, it can reduce the risk of severe complications.

In this article, we’ll discuss the potential side effects of the shingles vaccine and who should get it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the shingles vaccine for people 50 and over. They also recommend it for people 19 and older with an increased risk of shingles due to a weakened immune system. No maximum age exists for when a person can get the Shingrix vaccine.

Shingrix is the only shingles vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Shingrix vaccine is a recombinant vaccine. This means vaccine manufacturers created it by altering and purifying DNA that creates an immune response to fight the virus.

People should get the Shingrix vaccine if they:

  • are 50 or older
  • are uncertain if they have or haven’t had chickenpox in the past
  • have a history of shingles
  • have received the Zostavax vaccine in the past
  • are 19 or older and have a weakened immune system

Doctors administer the vaccine in two doses, 2 to 6 months apart.

Learn more about the shingles vaccine procedure.

There are a couple of factors to consider before getting the shingles vaccine:


The shingles vaccine contains ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Avoid the Shingrix vaccine if you:

  • have had a severe reaction to the first dose of the Shingrix vaccine
  • have had a severe allergy to one of the components of the Shingrix vaccine
  • have shingles currently
  • are currently pregnant or nursing


If you have a minor viral illness (like a common cold), you can still get the Shingrix vaccine. However, it may be best to recover before getting the Shingrix vaccine if you have a moderate or severe illness.

Doctors have tested the shingles vaccine on thousands of people to ensure its efficacy and safety. Most of the time, the vaccine is safely administered without any side effects.

But because the Shingrix vaccine prompts an immune response, some people can experience side effects like:

  • muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • fever
  • stomach pain
  • nausea

These side effects may last between 2 and 3 days after receiving the vaccine and are more common in younger people.

People have also reported injection-site side effects that include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • itching
  • soreness

If you experience side effects after receiving the shingles vaccine, you can take an over-the-counter pain medication to reduce your symptoms.


In very rare cases, people have developed a severe allergic reaction to the shingles vaccine. This reaction is called anaphylaxis.

Signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • swelling of the face (including the throat, mouth, and eyes)
  • hives
  • warmth or redness of the skin
  • trouble breathing or wheezing
  • dizziness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • rapid pulse

If you have any of these symptoms after getting the shingles vaccine, seek medical help immediately. Anaphylaxis can be life threatening.

Though rare, some people have developed the nervous system disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome after getting Shingrix or having shingles. The earliest symptoms usually involve tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes. This is a serious condition and requires urgent medical attention.

If you or a loved one experience severe side effects, contact the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System at 800-822-7967.

Does the shingles vaccine contain thimerosal?

You may be concerned about additives to the shingles vaccine, like thimerosal.

The shingles vaccine does not contain thimerosal.

Thimerosal is a preservative that contains mercury. It’s added to some vaccines to prevent bacteria and other germs from growing in them.

The worry about thimerosal arose when early research linked it to autism. This connection has since been found to be untrue.

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If you experience severe symptoms after getting the shingles vaccine, seek medical help immediately.

If you have any signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or facial swelling, call 911 or your local emergency services.

Anaphylaxis can be life threatening.

How long does it take for the side effects of the shingles vaccine to go away?

Minor side effects from the Shingrix vaccine typically go away after 2 to 3 days.

What are the negative side effects of the shingles vaccine?

Some people may experience minor side effects at the injection site, such as soreness and swelling. Others may have side effects due to their body’s immune response. These can include headache, fever, and nausea.

Serious side effects can include allergic reactions to the vaccine or its components.

Is the second shingles vaccine worse than the first?

You may develop similar side effects after the second dose of Shingrix compared with the first.

After getting the shingles vaccine, it’s safe for you to be around friends and family members — even children. Rarely, people develop a chickenpox-like rash on their skin after vaccination, though it is possible.

If you get this rash, you’ll want to cover it. Make sure any babies, young children, or people who are immunocompromised and haven’t been vaccinated against chickenpox don’t touch the rash.