The study in the Rheumatology Journal says scientists in Israel found six cases in a new study of patients with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases that developed the painful skin rash known as herpes zoster after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
Emedicine describes herpes zoster as a viral infection that occurs with reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, commonly known as chickenpox. It is usually a painful but self-limited skin rash.
Symptoms typically start with pain along the affected skin, which is followed in 2-3 days by a vesicular eruption, commonly known as a blister.
Out of 491 patients, six people or 1.2 percent experienced the infection, researchers said.
Five of them developed shingles after the first dose and the sixth got it after the second.
Dr. Victoria Furer, lead researcher on the study, said, “we cannot say the vaccine is the cause at this point,” and noted, “we can say it might be a trigger in some patients.”
“We should not scare people,” she told the Jerusalem Post. “The overall message is to get vaccinated. It is just important to be aware.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus that causes chickenpox lies dormant in the body after a person intially recovers from it. If the varicella-zoster virus reactivates later in life, that causes shingles. The CDC says most people who develop shingles have only one episode in their lifetime, but you can have it more than once.
While you cannot get shingles from someone who has an active case of shingles, you can get chickenpox from someone who has a shingles rash. It’s important to note, the risk of spreading it is low if you cover the rash properly and wash your hands often.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the commonly used names of the herpes zoster and varicella-zoster viruses, and additional context on the origin of shingles.