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Drugs reference index «Zostavax»


Generic name: Zoster vaccine liveBrand names: Zostavax

Why is Zostavax prescribed?

Zostavax is a vaccine that is used for adults 60 years and older to prevent shingles (also known as herpes zoster virus). It works by helping your immune system to resist the infection and the associated pain and other serious complications. If you do get shingles after you have been vaccinated, Zostavax may help prevent the nerve pain that can follow shingles in some people.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus can live, but remain inactive, in one or more nerve roots in your body for many years. For reasons that are not fully understood, the virus may become active again. Age and problems with the immune system may increase your risk of getting shingles.

Most important fact about Zostavax

Zostavax may not protect everyone who receives the vaccine. Zostavax cannot be used to treat shingles once you have it. If you do get shingles, see your doctor within the first few days of getting the rash.

How should you take Zostavax?

Zostavax is an injection that will be administered by your doctor.

What side effects may occur?

Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to receive this vaccine.

  • Side effects may include:Headache, injection-site reactions (bruising, itching, pain, redness, swelling, warmth)

Why should Zostavax not be prescribed?

You should not receive Zostavax if you:

  • Are allergic to any of its ingredients (including allergies to gelatin or neomycin)
  • Have a disease or condition that causes a weakened immune system, such as leukemia, lymphoma, HIV infection, or AIDS
  • Are taking high doses of steroids by injection or by mouth
  • Have active tuberculosis that is not being treated
  • Are pregnant or think you may become pregnant

Special warnings about Zostavax

You should avoid receiving Zostavax if you already have shingles.

You should also avoid becoming pregnant within 3 months of getting the vaccine. The manufacturer encourages vaccine recipients to report any exposure to Zostavax during pregnancy by calling (800) 986-8999.

Tell your doctor about your complete medical history, especially if you have allergies or if you've had shingles before. Also let the doctor know if you've ever had an allergic reaction to another vaccine.

Before receiving Zostavax, it's important to tell the doctor if you may be in close contact with someone who may be pregnant and has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox, or someone who has problems with their immune system.

Let your doctor know about all prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications you are taking before receiving the Zostavax injection, especially any medications that may weaken the immune system.

Special information if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

The effects of Zostavax during pregnancy and breastfeeding are unknown. You should not receive the vaccine if you are pregnant, and should avoid becoming pregnant for at least 3 months after receiving the vaccine. Tell your doctor immediately if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Recommended dosage for Zostavax


Zostavax is given as a single dose by injection under the skin.

  • Zostavax Prescribing Information (FDA)
  • Zostavax Consumer Overview
  • Zostavax Advanced Consumer (Micromedex) - Includes Dosage Information
  • Zostavax MedFacts Consumer Leaflet (Wolters Kluwer)
  • Zoster Vaccine Live Professional Patient Advice (Wolters Kluwer)