Herpes Zoster Vaccine

Zostavax™

What It's For & How To Take

Zoster vaccine is used to help prevent shingles in adults 50 years and older. This vaccine works by increasing the body’s natural immunity against the shingles virus. This will help prevent symptoms of shingles from developing.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. The virus then remains in your body throughout your life. Your healthy immune system suppresses the virus. When your immune system weakens, which usually happens when you age or have stress, the virus may grow and bring on a case of shingles.

The early symptoms of shingles may include a headache, sensitivity to light and flu-like symptoms. You may then feel a rash that causes significant itching and tingling. The rash may damage nerve endings in your skin and cause pain that feels like it wraps around the side of your body. The pain may persist for weeks.

This medication is administered as a single injection dose, under your skin into your upper arm. The medication is approved for anyone 50 years of age or older. Current immunization practice recommends anyone 60 years of age or older get the vaccine. Your doctor or pharmacist will help you decide when you should get the vaccine.

Warnings & Cautions

  • You should not get shingles vaccine if you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine.
  • You should not get shingles vaccine if you have a disease that weakens your immune system such as HIV or cancer, are being treated with medications that weaken your immune system, or have active tuberculosis
  • You should not get shingles vaccine if you are pregnant, or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least 4 weeks after getting the shingles Let your pharmacist or doctor know if you are breastfeeding before receiving this vaccination.
  • Shingles is not contagious; however, very rarely, a person who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine could get chickenpox from someone with shingles.
  • Someone with a minor illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. Anyone with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. If you have any questions as to whether you should receive this vaccine, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Interactions & Side Effects

  • Before receiving the zoster vaccine, make sure your healthcare provider is aware of all your medication allergies, the medication you take, and your complete medical history. Your description of your allergies, medications and medical history will help your pharmacist or doctor decide whether it is safe for you to receive this vaccination.
  • Tell your health care provider if you have heart or lung problems, fever, have a poor immune system or are receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatment.
  • After receiving the zoster vaccine, you may experience some redness, soreness, swelling or perhaps some itching at the site of injection. It is possible that you may also experience a headache, a slight fever, and some body aches. If these or any other side effects persist or worsen, notify your pharmacist or doctor to discuss it.
  • Serious adverse reactions to this vaccination are extremely rare; however, seek immediate medical attention if you experience signs of a serious allergic reaction such as itching or swelling of the tongue or throat, severe dizziness or trouble breathing.
If you have any questions about what you have heard, contact your pharmacist or doctor. This session does not include all the potential interactions or side effects that this medication may cause. Ask your pharmacist how your medication should be stored and how you should dispose of it when you are done taking it. Do not share your medication with anyone, ever. Remember, this is not meant to replace your counseling session with your pharmacist. In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.