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Shingles Vaccine Side Effects

Runny or stuffy nose, respiratory infection, and injection site reactions are some of the most commonly reported side effects of the shingles vaccine. Side effects are generally minor and do not require medical attention in most cases. There are, however, certain shingles vaccine side effects that are more serious and should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately, such as heart problems or allergic reactions.

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects: An Introduction

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with the shingles vaccine (Zostavax®); however, not everyone who gets the vaccination will experience side effects. In fact, most people tolerate it quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or can easily be treated by you or your healthcare provider.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with the shingles vaccine. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list of shingles vaccine side effects with you.)

Common Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine has been studied thoroughly in clinical trials. In these studies, the side effects that occur in a group of people who received the vaccine are documented and are then compared to side effects that occur in another group of people who received a placebo injection (with no active ingredients). This way, it is possible to see what side effects occur, how often they appear, and how they compare to the group who received a placebo.
In these studies, the most common shingles vaccine side effects included:
  • Injection site reactions, such as:
    • Pain or tenderness -- in up to 53.9 percent of people
    • Redness -- up to 48.1 percent
    • Swelling -- up to 40.4 percent
    • Itching -- up to 11.3 percent
    • Warmth -- up to 3.7 percent
    • Bruising -- up to 1.4 percent
    • A lump -- up to 1.1 percent
  • Headaches -- up to 9.4 percent
  • Respiratory infection (such as the common cold) -- up to 1.9 percent
  • Fever -- up to 1.8 percent
  • Flu-like symptoms (such as chills and body aches) -- up to 1.8 percent
  • Diarrhea -- up to 1.5 percent
  • Runny or stuffy nose -- up to 1.4 percent
  • Arm or leg pain -- up to 1.3 percent.
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