Is it safe to get a flu shot if I have shingles?

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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Unfortunately, the question has not been studied extensively. In general, doctors recommend that people not have a vaccine when they are fighting an infection.

Why is this? The purpose of a vaccine is to introduce into your body an infectious agent (or pieces of that agent). Your immune system then recognizes the invader and builds up resistance to it. This would protect you in the future if you got the real infection. Your immune system would be ready to attack it.

But if you already have an infection, your immune system is focusing on that infection. If you get a vaccine now, your immune system might not pay attention to it, and so you would not be as protected in the future.

This is a theoretical argument. It has not been solidly proved through scientific studies.

Your shingles is an active infection. For that reason, if you were my patient, I would recommend that you wait to get the flu shot until the shingles greatly improves or goes away completely. You should check with your doctor about this, however.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.