Is the shingles vaccine worth it?

Is the shingles shot worth it?

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Aches, pains, chills, nausea, and a headache. Who wants to feel those? You most likely will if and when you get the shingles vaccine - something that’s recommended once you hit the age of 50.

So why endure the side effects? Because the alternative is far worse.

Rick Smoak captures moments in time through his business, Rick Smoak Photography. A little more than ten years ago, Rick noticed he had a bit of a rash on his forehead and felt some tingling. Not a big deal. He thought.

“The next morning I woke up and the rash was starting to creep down to my face, closer to my eye, and really sharp, little pinpricks,” said Smoak.

Despite that, he got in his car intending to head to his studio.

“Stopped at a light and looked in his rearview mirror and it was even worse. I thought, okay, I’m right here at Lex Med. I’m going to turn in and have these guys look at it,” said Smoak.

It was an easy diagnosis for the doctor.

“She looked up at me and said, 'Oh, I can see why you’re here. You have shingles.”

About one of every three people in the U.S. will develop shingles. It’s a viral infection that causes a painful rash that blisters. It’s caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. So if you had chickenpox, you can get shingles. Your risk of getting it increases as you age which is why it’s recommended those 50 and older get a shingles vaccine. But be warned, many people pay a price for the prevention.

"Almost everyone is going to develop excruciating pain at the site where the injection was. And that is going to be 100% of individuals who get the injection. Some of the other symptoms people have are flu-like symptoms. 50% of people who get the vaccine are going to have a headache, nausea, fever, shivering, muscle aches,” says Dr. Francisco Albert.

The Lexington Medical Center hospitalist says those symptoms do go away after 24 to 72 hours. While the vaccine side effects can be rough, the doctor warns getting a case of shingles is far worse.

“The alternative of not getting the vaccine is much greater than some of the ramifications of suffering, some of the inconveniences of the vaccine itself,” warns Dr. Albert.

Rick, who did not get the vaccine, found out shingles can be excruciating.

He said, “I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. But this was up there, maybe at least an eight.”

And Shingles can lead to long-term nerve pain.

"The nerves become hyperexcitable, it causes stabbing pain, burning pain that is excruciating, very painful. It can last 30 days. There is something called post-traumatic neuralgia which we want to avoid as well which is one of the reasons why we get the vaccine. It can last 90 days or longer,” says Dr. Albert.

And active Shingles is contagious.

"It feels like you’re touching open sores or something. And it was just painful. Sharp little needles,” said Smoak.

Doctors say even though Rick already had shingles, he still should get the vaccine as you can get the disease more than once.

When you get the shingles vaccine, it comes in two doses. You’ll get the first shot and then get your second dose two to six months later.

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