Shingles vaccine: A shot in the arm

“You should get a shingles vaccine,” said my doctor at my annual checkup. “You can get it at the same time you get your flu shot at the pharmacy.”

“Does it hurt?” I asked as I slipped back into my boots. I knew it was kind of a dumb question, because of course it would hurt. I mean, come on; shots hurt. When your kids are little, you pretend that shots don’t hurt so they won’t be afraid of getting one. But on the inside, you know that when you get the shot, you’re like “Holy mother of Godzilla, that hurts!”

“A little,” she said.

“And will I get a lollipop afterward?” I asked.

“Probably not.”

I figured she was being truthful about the second question but not being truthful about the first, so without the motivation of a piece of candy, I put it off for a week. But then I found myself at the drug store and decided to bite the bullet and get the shots while I was there. When I told the pharmacist I wanted the vaccines, she smiled at me like I was going to get something really good, like a free ice cream cone, not two long, sharp needles jabbed into my arm.

In truth, it wasn’t so much the shots I was afraid of; it was the aftershots. I’ve had the flu vaccine, and the aftershot for that one isn’t bad at all, but I’d heard that the aftermath of the shingles shot is bad. Like, your arm hurts so much you can’t lift it to even grab a sheet of toilet paper bad. Still, no one I knew had said anything about it, so I thought maybe it wouldn’t be that bad.

The pharmacist took me into a tiny back room and then she whipped out two giant needles. One was filled with the shingles serum and the other with the flu vaccine. Then, before you could say “chin hair,” she gave me a shot in each arm.

That was it. She said “Have a nice day” like she hadn’t just impaled me on two swordfish-sized needles, and she left. I got up, waved my arms around, and felt nothing. But once I got home, I realized that my shingles arm was getting a little achy. By dinner time, it was really sore. And the next morning, I couldn’t lift my shingles shot arm, and I was walking around like a lopsided orangutan with my knuckles dragging on the floor. My husband, of course, thought I was being a weenie and said I was overreacting. I said, “People who get Man Colds shouldn’t throw stones.”

The shingles arm pain lasted for a week. And then suddenly it was better. I was so relieved because my arm felt normal again… until I remembered, “Holy Mother of Godzilla, I have to get a SECOND booster shot.”

Realizing that the pain from a shingles shot was much, much less than actually having shingles, I quit whining about it and told all my girlfriends they should get the shingles shot. I also decided to start a Sisterhood of the Traveling Shingles Shot Arm and tell everyone what came AFTER the shingles shot so they could prepare themselves for the orangutan experience that would come.

And this time, after I get the booster shot, I plan to have chocolate cake waiting for me when I get home, which will be great — as long as I can lift my arm to put the fork in my mouth.


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