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No, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn't cause shingles

The vaccine in itself doesn't cause the Shingles virus. However, the vaccine, and many other vaccines, can stimulate the immune system.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. —

The COVID-19 vaccine has been known to cause fatigue, a headache and soreness, but we are hearing reports of a more serious reaction. Users online say they are developing the shingles virus from the vaccine.

Theories and misinformation can spread like wildfire on social media. Some viewers are comparing the shingles reaction to the Johnson and Johnson blood clotting reaction. A viewer asked if this is true. 

THE QUESTION

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause shingles?

THE SOURCES

  • Dr. Del DeHart, University of Michigan Health-West infectious disease physician and lead their on infection prevention group
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the COVID-19 vaccine, in itself, can't cause shingles. However, the vaccine, and many other vaccines, can stimulate the immune system.  

WHAT WE FOUND

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same as chickenpox, according to the CDC. Even once you recover, it never goes away. The virus remains inactive in the body, but can, when triggered, become active again.

"Could it be that after you get a good immune response from a COVID vaccine, that might be something where you would get reaction like shingles? I suppose it is possible that that's true," Dr. Del DeHart, University of Michigan Health-West infectious disease physician, said. "People have cold sore viruses, they know if they get a cold, they might get a sore on their lip. We know that any stimulus, any irritant, can cause those to flare back up in shingles is the same thing."

Developing shingles after sudden stimuli is NOT unique to the COVID vaccine, DeHart said. In medicine, there is a saying, "correlation does not equal causation." This means that just because two things happen, doesn't mean that are related.  

"If it's true, it could be happening after flu vaccine, after just about any other vaccine, any flu, illness, any cold, it could happen after any of those immune things," he added. 

Healthcare workers have studied this COVID vaccine more carefully than any other, he said. Because doctors are monitoring reactions so thoroughly, they may be unintentionally looking for a relationship, because they are so focused on the vaccine.

A research study in Turkey that has been widely shared online shows a man developing shingles following his covid-19 vaccine. This was one singular 68-year-old, an age where shingles is common. In the article, the researchers state they do not have enough data to say if there is a relationship.

"We'll know that more as we study it. But is it a reason not to get the COVID vaccine?" he asked. "Well, absolutely no, because shingles is a very manageable, treatable and preventable thing with the shingles vaccine.

Right now, there is no relationship between the two and if it is happening, it is extremely rare, Dr. DeHart said.

COVID-19 is much more dangerous and deadly than having shingles, so he said everyone should get a vaccine for both if in the qualifying age groups.

More from VERIFY: No, you shouldn't take expired cold medicine

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