Precautions and Warnings With the Shingles Vaccine
To help minimize risks, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about precautions and warnings with the shingles vaccine. Before getting vaccinated, let your healthcare provider know if you have an active tuberculosis infection, are allergic to neomycin or gelatin, or have a weakened immune system. It is important to know that the shingles vaccine is not approved to treat shingles or prevent chickenpox.
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You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to getting the shingles vaccine (Zostavax®) if you:
- Have a weakened immune system, caused by HIV, AIDS, cancer, or other problems
- Have had a reaction to a vaccine in the past
- Are allergic to neomycin or gelatin
- Have an active tuberculosis infection
- Have any other allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you:
- Are not feeling well
- Are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
- Are breastfeeding.
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to getting the shingles vaccine include the following:
- Rarely, people who have received the shingles vaccine may transmit the virus to other people who are susceptible to chickenpox (people who have not had chickenpox and have not been vaccinated against chickenpox). It may be a good idea to avoid people who are susceptible to chickenpox (especially susceptible pregnant women).
- The shingles vaccine is not approved to help prevent chickenpox.
- No studies have been conducted on whether the shingles vaccine is effective for preventing shingles for more than four years. It is possible that a "booster" vaccination may be recommended in the future.
- Like most vaccines, the shingles vaccine is not 100 percent effective.
- If you have an active tuberculosis infection, you should wait to get a shingles vaccination.
- If you are sick or do not feel well, your healthcare provider may decide to wait to give you the shingles vaccination.
- The shingles vaccine can interact with a few different medications (see Drug Interactions With the Shingles Vaccine for more information).
- The shingles vaccine is considered a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe for use during pregnancy, although the full risks are not currently known (see Zostavax and Pregnancy).
- It is not known whether the shingles vaccine passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Zostavax and Breastfeeding).