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A few months back, the day before I had a big trip to Boston planned, I got the first dose of the Shingrix shingles vaccine (you get it in two doses 2-6 months apart). About 16 hours after the shot, I was hit by flu-like symptoms that I believe were a reaction to the vaccine. I was a little bit upset with my doctor’s office as a result, because when I’d shared with them that I’d be flying the next day, I was told that less than 1% of people who get the shingles vaccine experience the sort of reaction that I ended up having.

But I’m not so sure about that <1% figure. When I posted about my experience on my personal Facebook page, tons of people commented saying that either they’d had a similar reaction themselves or they knew someone who had. Meanwhile, the CDC says that “you are likely to have temporary side effects from getting the shots” that “may affect your ability to do normal daily activities for 2 to 3 days.”

Don’t get me wrong: A reaction like mine is way, way better than shingles (I had shingles in 2015; here’s my post on it). The symptoms didn’t even end up lasting that long. I just wish I’d known that there was a chance of having a reaction before I went into the doctor’s office the day before I had to fly and be crisp. Instead, I could have gotten the vaccine when I had nothing planned the next day. In the end, I missed out on seeing all my friends, making new ones and networking at the second-annual TravelCon in Boston.

I have to go back for the second dose in a few weeks. This time I’ll plan better!

See more on the CDC page here.

More on shingles vaccine side effects from the CDC

From the CDC page’s section on the side effects of Shingrix:

“Most people got a sore arm with mild or moderate pain after getting Shingrix, and some also had redness and swelling where they got the shot. Some people felt tired, had muscle pain, a headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. About 1 out of 6 people who got Shingrix experienced side effects that prevented them from doing regular activities. Symptoms went away on their own in about 2 to 3 days. Side effects were more common in younger people.

“You might have a reaction to the first or second dose of Shingrix, or both doses. If you experience side effects, you may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.”

More travel health


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Johnny Jet

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13 Comments On "Don’t Get the Shingles Vaccine the Day Before an Important Trip"
  1. JohnC|

    You need to get two of the new shingles vaccines and yes, you will be sick for about 48 hours afterwards. The good news is that you are not contagious!

  2. Laine25|

    I did ask about side effects from Shingrex vaccine and was told my arm might be sore which it was and did feel tired go back for my second dose in December so will not plan any trips! Had a mild case of Shingles few years ago

  3. Rich|

    Definitely agree with you. Had mine this weekend and had all the symptoms, aches, chills, fever, redness at injection site, etc for 48 hours. Felt terrible but have also had shingles and never want to go through that again either.

  4. Tom P|

    I knew about the potential side effects. I got both shots at around 10:30 am – when the pharmacy first opened. And both times, around 8:00 pm, I got achey and a little feverish, and just generally felt bad. I took some Tylenol and went to bed early and felt fine the next morning.

  5. Douglas|

    1 in 6 each of two times means you have slightly greater than a 30 percent chance in total for both shots of a flu like reaction. I had a bad reaction to only my second shot starting about 6 hours later and then ending right at 24 hours later. I felt really sick. Would have missed work but fortunately got the 2nd shot on a Saturday afternoon. Any flying would have been agony.

  6. Curtis Payne|

    I got my first shot (& was not told I would need a second one, not looking forward to that) I got the shot at 11:30 on a Friday morning & was sick with the “Flu” by 8:30 that night, fever of 101, chills, chattering teeth, body aches & sluggishness. The symptoms slowly faded over the course of 3, still was not 100% when I went back to work on Monday. Thank goodness I had no plans that weekend.

  7. Carolyn Yapchanyk|

    I read this before getting my shot, and planned accordingly. After two day, I hadn’t felt bad, so I figure I was one of the lucky ones, but the third day I felt very tired and very blah. I don’t know if that was from the shot, it seems weird that it would take so long to feel any effects, but the next day I felt better. So I don’t know. Are we likely to feel the same effects with the second shot? Worse, less?

  8. Diana|

    I have missed 4 days of work and been sick for 5 and counting. Had a shingles shot and a flu shot a week ago and now suffering from Mennieres and flu like symptoms. Saw my Dr and she was convinced I have the flu as well. Has been a very miserable week for me, and I still have to have 2nd shot. Counting my blessings it hit me now and not in 2 weeks when I go to Hawaii. I am not expected back to work until Tuesday. Hit me hard. Almost went to ER. Nervous about 2nd shot will get it when I’m hibernating this winter. Probably better than getting shingles but enough is enough.

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      OMG! Sorry to hear that and hope you feel better by tomorrow

  9. Nellann Nipper|

    As a nurse , I always plan any immunizations when I have nothing going on for a few days. The immunizations trigger your body’s immune response and you never know if or how severe your reaction will be. Better to be safe and not have your travel plans ruined.
    I enjoy following your blog. Met you a couple of times at your sisters home in Erie. Took care of your nephew in the NICU.

  10. Naomi|

    I find I have to do my own research and only then will a medical professional offer important information (when asked). They act like we should know all of this. Just got the yellow fever vaccine which is risky at my age because it’s a live vaccine. Naturopath put me on thymus gland to build my immune system and I made sure to eat and sleep well before getting it. Patients in the waiting room who were there to share the dose (a fractional vaccine) had NO idea about the risks.

  11. Curtis Payne|

    I am replying again to this story, I got my second shingles shot this past Friday morning at 9 AM, sure enough I was starting to feel the effects AGAIN by 5 PM Fever of 101, chills, body aches & a general feeling of Blah! This time I also got a headache, but only for a few hours. Here it is Monday afternoon & I’m almost back to normal. These side affects a real bummer. I was told that the second shot will probably not have many effects but they did, milder but all still there.

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Ugh! I have to get my second next week!

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