Brand names: Zostavax
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.
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.
Zostavax is an injection that will be administered by your doctor.
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.
You should not receive Zostavax if you:
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.
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.
ADULTS 60 YEARS AND OLDER
Zostavax is given as a single dose by injection under the skin.