Does the shingles vaccine have any risks?

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Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The shingles vaccine was approved for people 50 and older, but only around 10% of people who are eligible for a shingles vaccination ever get it. We bet it's because of Internet buzz about safety concerns -- and the fact that most people aren't really aware that every third person in the U.S. gets shingles. That's more than 1 million cases a year.

Good news! A massive study of almost 200,000 people shows that the live shingles vaccine poses no increased risk for cerebrovascular diseases, stroke, cardiovascular disease (heart attack), meningitis, encephalitis, encephalopathy, Ramsay Hunt syndrome, or Bell's palsy. It's safe and well tolerated. True, the vaccine doesn't protect you completely from shingles, but it reduces your risk by up to 70%. (The younger you are, the better the protection.) Plus, if you do end up with shingles, having been vaccinated makes the attack much milder, with less-severe post-infection pain.

Remember, there's little risk from the shingles vaccine, and a much bigger one from skipping it. Take a shot. It's a win-win situation.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
The shingles vaccine is generally considered to be safe. Any vaccine may cause mild discomfort, such as pain and redness where it is injected, headaches, and tiredness. These effects usually don't last long. Ask your doctor if a shingles vaccine is right for you.

You should not receive the shingles vaccine if any of the following apply to you:
  • You have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other part of shingles vaccine.
  • Your immune system is weakened due to disease (such as AIDS or certain types of cancer) or medical treatments you are receiving.
  • You are pregnant.
Talk to your doctor for specific guidance.

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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.