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Herpes infection could be a rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new study

COVID-19 vaccine - Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

According to a new study, researchers have revealed a herpes infection may be a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The study, published in the journal Rheumatology, analyzed side effect data from 491 people with autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases who received the Pfizer vaccine. The researchers found that six of the patients with AIIRD developed herpes zoster within several days of receiving the vaccine. The Jerusalem Post reported that herpes zoster, known as shingles, starts as a small, itchy skin rash, but if left untreated, it can cause nerve damage and pain. Among the six patients, four had rheumatoid arthritis, one had Sjogren’s syndrome, and another had a connective disease. However, all of the patients were women, and five of the reactions happened after the first vaccine dose.

In a majority of cases, the herpes zoster infection was mild, although one patient had a case of herpes zoster ophthalmicus, which is when the virus affects the eye. Five of the patients were treated with antiviral medication and had no symptoms up to six weeks later. Five of the patients completed their second dose of the vaccine without any other issues. Yet, it’s unclear whether the vaccine caused the cases of herpes zoster. Though a link was found, further research is necessary. Although it’s understandable to freak out when hearing the word herpes in the same sentence as the COVID-19 vaccine, this connection isn’t shocking to doctors.

Infectious disease expert, Amesh A. Adalja, told Health that “People with autoimmune disorders that are on immunosuppressant medications are at higher risk of having shingles.” Dr. Adalja added, “there have been reports of vaccines causing shingles in the past.” He explained that if someone already has an autoimmune condition, they may be at greater risk for herpes zoster. With that being said, it’s possible to get herpes zoster after being vaccinated for COVID-19. Still, Dr. Adalja stated that the overall risk is low, especially if you don’t have an autoimmune condition. Herpes zoster can be treated with antiviral medications. However, if you’re concerned about your risk of developing herpes zoster after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Adalja recommended that you talk to your doctor about receiving the herpes zoster vaccine first.

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ARTICLE: GABRIELLA ANTOS

POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: WHDH

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