Zostavax

is a vaccine used to prevent shingles in adults 50 years of age or older. If you do get shingles even after vaccination, Zostavax may help prevent the nerve pain that can follow shingles.

Zostavax Overview

Reviewed: July 31, 2015
Updated: 

Zostavax is a vaccine that is used for adults 50 years of age or older to prevent shingles (also known as zoster).

Zostavax contains a weakened chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus). Zostavax works by helping your immune system protect you from getting shingles.

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

Common side effects of Zostavax include redness, pain, itching, swelling, hard lump, warmth, or bruising where the shot was given.

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Uses of Zostavax

Zostavax is a vaccine used in adults 50 years of age or older to prevent shingles (also known as zoster).

If you do get shingles even though you have been vaccinated, Zostavax may help prevent the nerve pain that can follow shingles in some people. Zostavax does not protect everyone, so some people who get the vaccine may still get shingles.

  • Zostavax cannot be used to treat shingles, or the nerve pain that may follow shingles, once you have it.
  • You should not get Zostavax to prevent chickenpox
  • Children should not get Zostavax.

Manufacturer

Zoster, Live Attenuated

For more information on this medication choose from the list of selections below.

Zostavax Drug Class

Zostavax is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Zostavax

The most common side effects include:

  • redness, pain, itching, swelling, hard lump, warmth, or bruising where the shot was given
  • headache

The following additional side effects have been reported with Zostavax:

  • allergic reactions, which may be serious and may include difficulty in breathing or swallowing. If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor right away.
  • chickenpox
  • fever
  • hives at the injection site
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • rash
  • rash at the injection site
  • shingles
  • swollen glands near the injection site (that may last a few days to a few weeks)

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new or unusual symptoms after you receive Zostavax. For a complete list of side effects, ask your health care provider.

Zostavax Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you plan to get Zostavax at the same time you get Pneumovax 23 or the flu vaccine. Also, tell your doctor if take high doses of steroids. 

This is not a complete list of Zostavax drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information. 

Zostavax Precautions

  • Hypersensitivity Reactions. Serious adverse reactions, including anaphylaxis, have occurred with Zostavax.
  • Transmission of Vaccine Virus. Transmission of vaccine virus may occur between those who receive Zostavax and susceptible contacts.
  • Concurrent Illness. If you are sick (for example, in the presence of fever) or in patients with active untreated tuberculosis, receiving Zostavax is not recommended.  
  • Limitations of Vaccine Effectiveness. Vaccination with Zostavax does not result in protection of all vaccine recipients. The duration of protection beyond 4 years after vaccination with Zostavax is unknown. The need for revaccination has not been defined. 

You should not get Zostavax if you:

  • are allergic to any of its ingredients
  • are allergic to gelatin or neomycin
  • have a weakened immune system (for example, an immune deficiency, leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV/AIDS)
  • take high doses of steroids by injection or by mouth
  • are pregnant or plan to get pregnant
  • are breastfeeding

Children should not get Zostavax. 

Zostavax Food Interactions

Medications can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of Zostavax, there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving this medication. 

Inform MD

 Tell your health care provider if you:

  • have or have had any medical problems
  • take any medicines, including non-prescription medicines, and dietary supplements
  • have any allergies, including allergies to neomycin or gelatin
  • had an allergic reaction to another vaccine
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant
  • are breast-feeding

Tell your health care provider if you expect to be in close contact (including household contact) with newborn infants, someone who may be pregnant and has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox, or someone who has problems with their immune system. Your health care provider can tell you what situations you may need to avoid. 

Zostavax and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Zostavax is not recommeded in pregnant women. It is not known whether Zostavax can cause harm to an unborn baby when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction potential. However, naturally occurring varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection is known to sometimes cause harm to an unborn baby. Therefore, Zostavax should not be given to pregnant women, and women of child bearing age should avoid becoming preganant for 3 months after getting Zostavax.

Zostavax and Lactation

Tell your doctor is you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. 

It is not known if Zostavax crosses into human milk. Because some vaccines can cross into human milk and because of the possibility for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants with use of this vaccine, a choice should be made whether to stop nursing or stop the use of this vaccine. Your doctor and you will decide if the benefits outweigh the risk of using Zostavax.

Zostavax Usage

  • Zostavax is administered by a healthcare provider.
  • It is given as a single dose by injection under the skin, in the deltoid region of the upper arm. 

Zostavax Dosage

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

Zostavax Overdose

Zostavax is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting. It is unlikely that an overdose will occur in this setting. However, if overdoes is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.