The older you get, the more likely you are to get shingles, a painful rash that shows up on your side, face, or upper body. The shingles vaccine can help prevent you from getting it. It’s not 100% effective at stopping the virus, but if you do end up with shingles after having had the vaccine, your symptoms will be less severe.
Who Should Get the Shingles Vaccine
The shingles vaccine has been approved for anyone who’s over the age of 50, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it be given to people age 60 and above.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, and people who have never had chickenpox are supposedly immune. But the CDC says 99% of Americans over the age of 40 have had chickenpox at one time or another even if they don’t remember having it. So you should get the vaccine regardless.
If you’ve already had shingles, it’s still okay to be vaccinated (after your shingles rash has completely disappeared) to help prevent you from getting it again.
Also, if you’re a caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, you might want to think about getting that person vaccinated as well.
Who Shouldn’t get the Shingles Vaccine
Here are some instances in which you should avoid getting a shingles vaccine:
- If you’ve had a previous severe allergic reaction to gelatin, neomycin (an antibiotic), or any other component of the shingles vaccine. If you’re not sure, tell your doctor up front if you have any severe allergies.
- If you have a condition that weakens your immune system, such as:
- HIV or AIDS
- Multiple Myeloma
- Viral hepatitis
- Tuberculosis (untreated)
- If you’re taking drugs or doing other treatments that affect your immune system, such as chemotherapy, steroids, or radiation therapy
- If you’re pregnant (or trying to get pregnant)
Where to Get the Shingles Shot
The easiest place to get a shingles shot is at your primary care physician’s office. If he or she doesn’t offer the vaccine, there are plenty of doctors in Kansas City who do. You can also get a shingles shot at Walgreens or CVS.
Shingles Vaccine Side Effects
Side effects of the shingles vaccine tend to be mild. The most common side effects are redness, pain, swelling, and itching at the injection site. Headaches are also fairly common.
Some people will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the injection site after receiving the shingles vaccine. If that happens, just cover the rash until it disappears.