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Questions about the Shingles vaccine

missrenee's picture
Posts: 2137
Joined: Apr 2010

I know a couple of you here have had shingles and I also know a couple of friends--all in the 50+ age group who have had them. I had chicken pox as a kid and also have had herpes simplex on my lips (cold sores) from time to time throughout life, so obviously this virus is in my body. I did some online looking and one of the contraindications for getting the vaccine is if you are currently in chemo or have a compromised immune system.

I am not actively in chemo (taking Faslodex injections and Zometa infusions), so I asked my med. onc. and she said it would be okay to get the vaccine. However, now I'm thinking--are we, as cancer patients, in the group classified as "compromised immune system?"

Seems like a double-edged sword--people with compromised immune systems get shingles, but should we not get the vaccine because our immune systems are compromised?

All I know for sure is, if I can do something to not get them, I will.

Thank you so much for any thoughts or advice.

Hugs, Renee

Posts: 3659
Joined: Aug 2009

I got my Shingles shot after chemo and rads. No problems at all with it. I don't kno about if your immune system is 'compromised' though. Mine does not seem to be at all. In the yrs pre-BC, I would catch every cold running around and had quite a often sinus infections. Since end of TX (2 1/2 yrs), I've only had 1 minor sinus infection so would appear my immune system is not compromised at all. I've donated blood since and used to usually get a cold after but haven't with the the recent donations. (Yes - it is OK to donate blood if you are a breast cancer survivor when you are a yr post TX, [Estrogen blockers are not considered TX], have had no recurrances or mets and meet the other requirements that apply to all. Not all types of cancer are approved but breast cancer is.)

Do what your Drs suggest. Of course there is never a guarantee that any vaccine will work with all. Long story short - sons had their MMR's with boosters - unfortunately neither of them got immunity and younger son was exposed to measles at a Dr appt. This wsas during a measles epidemic in SW FL during Desert Storm. Their Dad was deployed there. Older son was not expected to live but shortly before Hubby was to get on the plane offf the Ranger, he rallied and we were able to get a MARS message through in time. Both boys were able to fly to Pearl and do the Tiger Cruise back to CA. Only saying this as many think that a vaccination gives immunity - it does in the vast majority of cases but not 100%.

Posts: 4376
Joined: Jun 2009

I asked for the shingles vaccine, but, my oncologist said that my immune system was still almost null, so, he didn't want to give it to me as he said if he did, I would probably get the shingles for sure. So, I am just waiting until my immune system gets better to get the shot, if ever.

I don't think everyone should run out and get the shot until they've spoken with their own oncologist and see what he says.

If yours thinks your immune system is good Renee, you can probably get the shingles shot with no side effects.

Hugs, Jan

VickiSam's picture
Posts: 9085
Joined: Aug 2009

It's so funny that I saw your post, as my Mom and I have been talking about shingles for a
week now.

My mom's younger sister -- had a bout of shingles a few months ago, and had another
outbreak this past week. So my Mom decided to ask her primary physician for this
vaccine late last week -- he told her 'NO'. Why, ? I don't know. Every Time I turn
around I run into another women who has been exposed with a shingle outbreak. Scary.

I see my Onco for my quarterly check up in a few weeks, so I will be obtaining information
from Doctor M == pros and con's if any -- age 50 ?

Vicki Sam

Posts: 3659
Joined: Aug 2009

One really isn't 'exposed' to shingles. The virus is already in your body IF you had chicken pox as a child/before.

There have recently been several commercials on TV about shingles recently.

Winyan Y The Power Within


SIROD's picture
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010


I had shingles twice in my life and would prefer never to have it again. At age 24 yrs, and age 46 yrs, I was in perfect health both times, no medical issues whatsoever. I have often wondered what triggered a bout of shingles each time. I have yet to figure it out. I did have chicken pox as a child.

Hormonal therapies for breast cancer do not compromise the immune system. It does manipulate the hormones.

I take Methotrexate for my chronic uveitis and do have monthly blood tests. They are not happy when I have on occasion have stretch the 4 weeks to 7 weeks. Since I have been on that drug, my RBC & WBC are usually low (often at the lowest point or out of range. My use of Methotrexate is not in the same manner as it was when it had been part of my chemo drugs. I do have active cancer along with other autoimmune diseases. I believe at this point in my life I am not a candidate for vaccine.

If you have your oncologist approval and there are no other doctors you see as often as that one, I would go for it. Other wise, I would consult with your other doctors too.



carkris's picture
Posts: 4554
Joined: Aug 2009

My mother said she got the vaccine but that many insurances will not pay for it. My aunt got it on her face and it went into her eye. She has been through the ringer with this. I have been thinking of getting one myself. i think stress might bring it out.

SIROD's picture
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010


I knew a man who had shingles in the upper face and eye. He had to retire and it took forever to return to normal. There is an age criteria in order for the insurances to pay for the shot. Since I was so very young the first time I had shingles, I wonder why there is an age factor to it. Both times I had my shingle problems, I was not stress out. It came out of the blue.


Shingles vaccine: Should I get it?

By Mayo Clinic staff

Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shingles-vaccine/AN01738


Shingles vaccine: Should I get it?

Who should get the shingles vaccine? If I've already had shingles, should I get the vaccine so I don't get shingles again?

Answer from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Whether they've had shingles or not, adults age 60 and older should get the shingles vaccine (Zostavax), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the vaccine is also approved for use in people ages 50 to 59 years, the CDC isn't recommending the shingles vaccine until you reach age 60.

The shingles vaccine protects your body from reactivation of a virus — the chickenpox (varicella-zoster) virus — that most people are exposed to during childhood. When you recover from chickenpox, the virus stays latent in your body. For unknown reasons, though, the latent virus sometimes gets reactivated years later, causing shingles. The shingles vaccine prevents this reactivation.

The shingles vaccine isn't fail-safe; some people develop shingles despite vaccination. Even when it fails to suppress the virus completely, however, the shingles vaccine may reduce the severity and duration of shingles. Although there's hope that the vaccine will reduce your risk of severe, lingering pain after shingles (postherpetic neuralgia), studies haven't yet found strong evidence of that effect.

The shingles vaccine is a live vaccine given as a single injection, usually in the upper arm. The most common side effects of the shingles vaccine are redness, pain, tenderness and swelling at the injection site, and headaches.

The shingles vaccine isn't recommended if you:

Have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin or any other component of the shingles vaccine

Have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, lymphoma or leukemia

Are receiving immune system-suppressing drugs, such as steroids, adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), etanercept (Enbrel), radiation or chemotherapy

Have active, untreated tuberculosis

Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

In some cases, the cost of the shingles vaccine may not be covered by Medicare or insurance. Check your plan.

AN01738 Jan. 11, 2012

© 1998-2012 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

MGNS's picture
Posts: 197
Joined: Sep 2009

My oncologist told me it was ok for me to have the shingles shot. I'm 2 years out of treatment and currently on Femara. I got the shot this past January and no side effects or problems with it.

VickiSam's picture
Posts: 9085
Joined: Aug 2009

information regarding shingles, and vaccine.

Vicki Sam

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2014

I have a family member who "forgot" to mention that she was diagnoised with shingles.  I have pancreatic cancer and am doing fairly well but when I mentioned it to my palitive care doctor that I was with this family member quite often, he was very upset by this and sent me to my family care doctor to get the shingles vaccine.  My family care doctor did not want me to get the vaccine but the palitive care doctor insists that I get the shot.  I am going to get the shot next week when the vaccine comes in.  I am so hurt and angry that I was exposted and not a word was mentioned and everyone else in the family knew and no one mentioned it to me.  My husband is upset that I am upset at his family but they always forget to tell us about everything we just have to hear it through the grape vine...grrrr help

Money MouthYellSealed

SIROD's picture
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

Check with your oncologist.

Jean 0609's picture
Jean 0609
Posts: 2462
Joined: Jun 2010

I got the shingles vaccine, as recommended by my doctor, last year without any side effects and my insurance did cover it.  This week when I went she recommended the tetanus shot with pertussis (for whooping cough).  I still had 5 more years to go for my tetanus shot, but because I am around my Grandbabies, she recommended the pertussis.  





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