Last Tuesday afternoon, I got my second shingles vaccination. My first Shingrix shot, back in February, gave me a sore arm with a rash that lasted more than a week. But it was otherwise unremarkable. This time, however, was different.
By bedtime, my arm was achy, per usual after a vaccination. But I had trouble sleeping, waking several times with sore joints and unable to find a comfortable position. In the morning, I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. Very strange sensation. Could not stop until I managed to warm up under sweaters and blankets. For the rest of the day, I was draggy and achy, felt faint a few times, and basically had to lie down a lot. Over-the-counter pain meds helped somewhat. By Thursday I began to perk up, though by afternoon, I started to fade again. It wasn’t until Friday that I felt more like myself.
Annoying as this was (I haven’t felt that crummy in a long time), it was certainly better than getting shingles. I actually had shingles once, a few years ago, but was fortunate enough to ask my PCP about what I thought was a spider bite at a routine check-up. He recognized it as shingles and put me on a week’s course of antiviral medication, which worked very well. I never experienced the debilitating nerve pain from the virus, thank goodness, but I know others who have, and it is no picnic.
Because I’d had shingles, however, I had a long conversation with my Boston Medical rheumatologist about whether the data about the vaccine’s effectiveness actually applied to me, since the research was based only on people who had never had shingles. At that time, he agreed that it was unnecessary. But the vaccine and research have evolved since then, and now my team of docs all recommended getting vaccinated.
I write this not to discourage anyone from getting vaccinated for shingles—just to alert you that the second dose can pack a wallop. Even the pharmacist told me before I received my shot that I might experience “flu-like” symptoms. So give yourself downtime after the shot, in case you have a reaction. And be sure to discuss with your medical team whether a shingles vaccination is appropriate for your personal health needs and any side effects that should be weighed against benefits for your particular situation.