Posted on Leave a comment

Should I have the vaccine after a bout of shingles?

Emails and phone conversations start with variations on “Should I have the vaccine after a bout of shingles?”

We have checked with an expert involved with the introduction of the shingles vaccine into the UK back in 2011. He told us that as he had recently had shingles, he was not going to bother with the vaccine for about 4 years. Here’s the medical explanation for his decision.

We catch chickenpox as children. (Medical name herpes varicella) The body will clear in up in a couple of weeks, usually. But some of the virus rides the tide of nutrient fluids up the nerve to the neural ganglion beside the spine, where it stays. Occasionally, it can reactivate. On average a recurrence (called herpes zoster) occurs once in 20 years but that’s averaging out the unlucky few who have repeated episodes with the people who don’t have any.

The virus is kept quiet by our body’s defences. When they are busy elsewhere, dealing with ill-health, stress, trauma, injury, then the virus rides back down the nerve and causes a recurrence. This will be in just one area of the body on one side of the body. Often the face or the ribs: in one stripe in the picture. Chart of dermatomes in the body

Our expert pointed out “Each time you have a bout of shingles, your body will make more antibodies to fight it. So having shingles does the same job as having the vaccine.” So this is why he will wait 4 years before getting the vaccine.

It would not be dangerous to have vaccine after a bout of shingles. It would just not be as useful.

Page published 18 January 2024

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *