Vaccines protect us from microbial infections by boosting the immunity levels. Of the many microbial attacks, a virus called varicella-zoster triggers a condition known as shingles. This condition shows up as a painful rash, which appears on a particular portion of your body. The risks of such rashes turning into blisters are very high. Once blisters show up, they soon dry to form a crust in some 10 days or so. So, if you notice a few red-colored dots on the skin coupled with a persistent spell of itchiness, you may need to consult your doctor and check for a likely spell of shingles. There are vaccines available for shingles. Among such vaccines, shingrix is considered as more effective than its counterparts. But, what are the side effects of shingrix? You must know about the likely reactions and side effects before taking a shot of this vaccine.

You need to know that there are two popular vaccines – namely, shingrix and zostavax – available for the control of shingles. The good news is – both of them have needful approvals from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US. Shingrix is however more efficient as compared to zostavax. Those who have already taken shot of zostavax can take shingrix for an advanced level of protection from the virus.

Shingrix is recommended for those who are aged 50 years and more. Also, those who have already had a spell of shingles can take a shot of shingrix. This is required as shingles may recur in those who have already had it once, and especially in those who have not got themselves inoculated. Shingrix can be taken at any time – i.e., there is no threshold interval or time-limit for taking a shot of this vaccine. All you need to do is to check if the rashes have crusted away and no traces on your skin (of the prior episode of shingles) are visible. If you have ensured that there are no rashes, you may take a shot of shingrix any time.

A caveat – if you have taken a shot of zostavax, you may need to wait for a period of at least 60 days in order to take a shot of shingrix. Also, you need to remember that shingrix is not recommended for use on children. It is very important that your age needs to be at least 50 years to be eligible for a shot of this vaccine. From the date of a shot, the vaccine can protect from a possible onset of shingles-virus for nearly four years. Its efficiency level is evidenced at nearly 84% or slightly more, in most cases. Shingrix is often administered on your upper arm in two unique doses. The vaccine is known to offer needful level of defense only when two doses are administered.

Side effects of shingrix

The virus called varicella zoster is known to remain inactive in your body for a very long duration. Its strands can rest at the root of your nerves for a truly long time. But, the instant these viral strands wake up from their long slumber, you are likely to get an episode of shingles. As mentioned, a shot of shingrix is taken for stopping the typical symptoms of shingles. If taken in a timely fashion, this vaccine can halt the spread of the virus and thus can help avoid the infection from turning into an acute medical condition. In simple terms, shingrix boosts your body’s immunity and erects a stronger defense against microbes that can cause shingles. You need to know that varicella zoster is the same virus which triggers other serious conditions like chickenpox.

The most common adverse reactions and side effects of shingrix include swelling at the site of the shot, itchiness, fever, nausea, vomiting, cramping of muscles, pain in lower abdomen, weariness, etc. It is also known to result in headaches, tremors (shivers), etc. These side effects do not require medical attention from a qualified practitioner or in a hospital setting. In remote instances, this vaccine can also lead to changes in eyesight, ringing in the ears as well as excessive levels of dizziness. This vaccine may very rarely trigger serious reactions or acute side effects. Such kind of acute side effects may include inflammation of facial and / or oral organs, breathing problems, acute level of drowsiness and a persistent spell of itchiness. At equally remote instances, rashes or blisters may form on the skin. If the pain at the site of the shot is becoming unbearable, your physician may recommend drugs to minimise the pains. Most commonly prescribed pain killing medications are acetaminophen, naproxen, ibuprofen or other types of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Women who are pregnant are usually not given a shot of this vaccine. However, your doctor may decide to give you a shot only if your medical condition poses a dire need for it. So, if you are pregnant, make sure that your medical team knows about the pregnancy. Medical sciences do not have conclusive evidence about safety of shingrix among breastfeeding women as well as their feeding infants. Hence, women who are breastfeeding / nursing an infant are recommended to talk to their physician prior to taking a shot.

Your medical team also needs to know if you have any allergies or hypersensitivity to vaccines – in general, or to antiviral vaccines, in particular. It is strongly recommended to share information about prior clinical conditions as well as your family’s medical history. Those who are living with autoimmune conditions such as cancers or viral infections like AIDS need to keep their physician well-informed of such prior ailments.

Interactions with other medications

This vaccine is more likely to interact with a few drugs when co-administered. Your physician needs to know that you are either already vaccinated or planning to get inoculated with shingrix before prescribing immunity suppressing drugs such as prednisone; shingrix may also develop counterproductive effects if taken with cancer treatment drugs (chemotherapy meds) or drugs like cyclosporine. Other drugs with which shingrix may interact and cause adverse reactions include antibodies of the monoclonal genre (such as rituximab). In general, it is a good practice to share details about your current medication plan with your doctor. If you are taking medications like tacrolimus (used to reduce the risks associated with rejection of a newly transplanted organ) and methotrexate (used for many types of autoimmune conditions like arthritis, cancers, skin conditions, etc.), your doctor and pharmacist must know about your medication plan.

Each drug or vaccine is made of both active and not-so-active ingredients. Some people may not be allergic to active items in shingrix. Instead, the passive items or not-so-active ingredients may trigger adverse / allergic effects. The best way to know the presence of such allergies is to observe how your body responds to the first dose of shingrix. If the first dose had triggered very acute reactions and side effects, your treating doctor will advise you not to opt for the second dose. Instead, a safer alternative is administered. Shingrix vaccine is administered over two (2) dosages of 0.5 milliliter (ml) each. The second (2nd) dose is given anytime between 60 to 180 days from the date of the first shot. You also need to be aware that vaccination – in general – may not offer complete defense to all people who take it. So, prior to taking a shot of shingrix, talk to your treating physician or pharmacist about such risks.

As the side effects listed above do not represent an entire list, it is recommended to consult your treating physician about other likely reactions. Upon experiencing new symptoms or adverse side effects, you need to quickly call 911 or reach out to a poison control center located closer to your home. You can also inform about newer signs of discomforts to vaccine adverse event reporting system (also called as VAERS). An added advantage of shingrix is – it can be given even if you have had a prior episode of chickenpox.

In case of non-availability of shingrix then zostavax is administered as a substitute. Moreover, if your body is hypersensitive to shingrix, your physician may advise you to take zostavax. Hypersensitivity to shingrix is likely to result in respiratory problems (slowing down of breathing cycles, wheezing or gasping), reduction in blood pressure levels (also called as hypotension) as well as swelling of a layer below the epidermis – i.e., top surface of the skin. In acutely allergic conditions, external swelling is observed on your limbs, tongue or eyes. Upon experiencing these signs, you are advised to call 911 without any delay. You can also report these allergic reactions to the helpline numbers of food and drug administration or VAERS.

In sum, both vaccines available for shingles – shingrix and zostavax – bear the essential approval of the Food and Drug Administration in US. Shingrix is more efficient among the two; it is administered to those aged 50 years and above. You need to know that shingrix is not administered onto children or younger adults. Efficiency level of this vaccine is observed at approximately 84% or even marginally more; it is known to provide the needful level of defense when 2 shots of it are taken. The most commonly experienced side effects of shingrix are persistent spell of itchiness, chronic headache, increase in body temperature, swelling and excessive levels of weariness or tiredness. You need to know that these adverse reactions / side effects do not constitute a full list. If you experience any new symptoms, you need to inform your treating doctor or contact the emergency hotlines / helpline numbers of the foods and drug administration.

Most of the abovementioned discomforts may show up only for a shorter span of time. Upon experiencing adverse side effects and discomforts for a fairly longer period of time, it is recommended to seek medical help without any further delay. Those who are taking immunity suppressing drugs or steroids need to tell their doctor about their medication plans. The treating doctor may either reduce the strength of those drugs or may suggest other approaches to minimise risks of organ rejection.

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