The Merck shingles vaccine can give someone shingles or chickenpox.  Since Zostavax® contains live virus, the varicella zoster virus, the vaccine can cause the disease it was meant prevent. Chickenpox and shingles can cause serious damage to the nervous system including meningitis, encephalitis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), and stroke. Other side effects can include necrotizing retinitis (an eye disorder), seizures, and possibly death. Shingles and chickenpox, can result in serious damage to the nervous system, including conditions like meningitis, encephalitis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) and stroke. Some people who develop shingles suffer other serious side effects, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, congestive heart failure, or varicella pneumonia.

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects:

  1. Rashes: Shingles vaccine reported complications include local swelling, pain and redness at injection site, zoster-like skin rash, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, fever, abnormally swollen glands, hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylaxis (shock). Rashes at the injection site generally go away from 5-18 days according to the Shingles Prevention Study Group. Rashes that occurred elsewhere likely reflected vaccine failure, as opposed to a side effect of the vaccination. According to the FDA, less than 1 percent of patients who received the vaccine developed a rash. Rashes occurred slightly more often—0.7 percent versus 0.1 percent—in people who received the vaccine, compared to people who received a placebo, suggesting that rash is a side effect of the vaccine. Rashes were also more common in younger—60- to 69-year-old—patients compared to patients over 70.
  2. Allergic reactions: These can sometimes be very serious. An allergic reaction from Zostavax® can cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing. One serious allergic reaction from Zostavax® is called a Signs of anaphylaxis include swelling of the face (including the mouth and eyes), hives, warmth or redness of the skin, trouble breathing, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, or a slow pulse. If you have any of these symptoms after the Zostavax® vaccine, get medical help right away. Anaphylaxis could cause death.
  3. Keratitis Vision Damage from Vaccines: Keratitis causes inflammation and scarring of the eye tissue. If one fails to get treated fast, it can lead to permanent vision loss. WebMD reported that researchers found 20 cases of keratitis in children and adults that occurred within a month of receiving a chickenpox or shingles vaccine. Keratitis symptoms for adults developed within 24 days of vaccination, while symptoms in children began within 14 days of vaccination.
  4. Other side effects of Zostavax®: Chickenpox, fever, hives at the injection site, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea, shingles, and swollen glands near the injection site. Please consult your doctor or go to the emergency room if you have any of these side effects.

Shingles Vaccination Effectiveness:

Merck’s live shingles vaccine has some problems. Merck reports the Zostavax® shingles vaccine lowers the risk of shingles by about 51 percent. That is not an impressive percentage given the dangerous risks of the vaccination. This vaccine is still fairly new and its long-term side effects and effectiveness have yet to be determined. The Merck shingles vaccine contains live attenuated varicella zoster virus which can cause shingles.  The shingles vaccine Merck makes is virtually the same as its chickenpox vaccine, except that the shingles vaccine is some 14 times stronger than the chickenpox version.

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