Why you might have a shingles flare-up after your COVID vaccination

Why you might have a shingles flare-up after your COVID vaccination

By Nancy Clanton, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for CNT

No evidence vaccine causes shingles, but experts say it might ‘reactivate’ the virus

Some people have experienced a shingles outbreak days after getting the COVID-19 vaccination, but experts say the latter did not cause the former.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, 1 in 3 people will have shingles at some point in their lives.

Doctors in Israel recently reported that six women with autoimmune disorders developed the painful rash 3-14 days after a first or second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Some people used this information to form a correlation between the vaccine and the virus.

But, as Medical Xpress put it, “that’s like concluding that because the rooster crows at dawn every day, he makes the sun come up.” Even the Israeli physician, who published in the journal Rheumatology, said “the study design is not structured to determine a causal relationship.”

Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of Queen’s University’s infectious diseases division in Kingston, Ontario, told CTV News on Tuesday he’s not surprised some people have reported a shingles flare-up after being vaccinated.

“Shingles reactivates when there may be some mild derangement caused by stress and other things like immune-suppressing medications and intercurrent illnesses, which allow the virus to then begin reactivating and producing the shingles,” he said, adding that the stress of getting a vaccine could act as a factor in causing a shingles flare-up.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told the Associated Press that reports of shingles are just a coincidence.

“We have been emphasizing the vaccination of older adults. That’s the very population in which shingles is the most common, and so you would expect some cases of shingles to occur after vaccination … because it’s going to occur anyway,” he said.

Evans said that although COVID-19 infection might reactivate shingles, there is no definitive, scientific data to prove that.

“It’s not that the vaccine caused the shingles; the vaccine was just one of what could have been many different triggers to have produced an episode of shingles,” Evans said.

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By Troy Warren

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