Can COVID-19 trigger shingles?

Infectious Diseases

In a nutshell, yes. Researchers recently found that people over 50 who had COVID were more likely to get shingles than people who did not have COVID.

This risk persists for at least 6 months following COVID-19 infection. A separate study looked at people who got either mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 and found NO elevated risk of shingles among those who were vaccinated.

Shingles is an often very painful rash. It’s not actually *caused* by COVID-19 infection. Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus (aka varicella or chickenpox).

When you have chickenpox (and you probably did if you’re over about 40 years old), you never really get rid of it. The virus hides out in your nerves and is kept under control by your immune system.

Later, if your immune system becomes weak for some reason (say, during another viral infection or a stressful life event), the virus can re-emerge and cause shingles.

People who had a shingles vaccine were excluded from this study, so we don’t know if the shingles vaccine could reduce this risk. People under age 50 were unfortunately also not included in this study.

However, getting your shingles vaccine definitely won’t *increase* your risk of shingles! If you’ve had COVID-19 and you’re over 50, it’s time to think about a shingles vax. If you want to learn more about shingles vaccines (and you know you do) check out our recent post linked below.

People age 50 and up are eligible for Shingrix, which is a newish two-dose vaccine against shingles. If you haven’t had one or you’re not sure which one you had, you might want to check in with your clinician. The new vaccine is available to more people, including people who already had the older one-dose vaccine (Zostavax) and those who are immunocompromised.

Bottom line: COVID-19 infection increases your risk of a shingles episode–at least, among people age 50 and up. We don’t know if getting the shingles vaccine will bring this risk back down to zero, but if you’re eligible this would be a great time to get it. It won’t hurt, and it may help.

Dear Pandemic – Shingles and the Shingles Vaccine: Get the Facts

Dear Pandemic – Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause shingles?

Healthline -Adults Over 50 Who Get COVID-19 Have Increased Risk of Shingles

Original sources:

Oxford Academic – Increased Risk of Herpes Zoster in Adults ≥50 Years Old Diagnosed With COVID-19 in the United States

NIH -Risk of herpes zoster reactivation after messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccination: A cohort study

Link to Original FB Post