UPDATE: Merck discontinued sales of Zostavax in the U.S. on November 18, 2020. Zostavax is no longer available for use in the U.S.
Zostavax is a shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine made by Merck & Co. that is recommended for adults over 60 years old. It reduces the risk of skin rash from shingles and chronic nerve pain due to Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN).
How is Zostavax given?
Can Zostavax give you shingles?
Who should NOT get Zostavax?
What are minor side effects of Zostavax?
What are the most common side effects of Zostavax?
What is the risk of fever from Zostavax?
What are severe side effects of Zostavax?
What other side effects were reported?
What ingredients are in Zostavax?
Can Zostavax cause a Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA)?
Can I file a Zostavax lawsuit?
Where can I get more information?
Zostavax® is a zoster vaccine that protects against shingles, which is a painful skin rash with blisters. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Zostavax prevents shingles in 51% of people who are vaccinated at age 60 and protection lasts 5 years. In the general population, 99% of Americans are infected with varicella zoster and 30% develop shingles.
Zostavax is given in one dose as a 0.65-mL shot, and can be given in a doctor’s office or pharmacy.
Yes. Shingles is a side effect of Zostavax that was added to the label in August 2014.
Zostavax contains a live attenuated zoster virus, which means it is alive but weakened. A common side effect of Zostavax is a chickenpox-like skin rash that can transmit the varicella zoster virus in the vaccine to other people, causing chickenpox or shingles.
People whose immune system is not strong enough to fight off the varicella zoster virus in the vaccine may develop a serious infection that can result in life-threatening complications or death.
Some people should not get Zostavax, including those who:
- Are pregnant (do not get pregnant for 3 months)
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, gelatin, or any other ingredient in the shingles vaccine
- Have a weakened immune system (for example, an immune deficiency, leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV/AIDS)
- Take medications that prevent activity of the immune system
- Take high doses of steroids by injection or by mouth
People with a mild illness like a cold may be vaccinated with Zostavax. But anyone with a moderate or severe illness like the flu should usually wait until they recover before getting Zostavax. This include anyone with a temperature over 101.3ºF. There have been people who died after receiving Zostavax because they were too sick.
In most cases, Zostavax causes no serious side effects. Some people experience headaches or other mild reactions that last a few days, such as soreness, swelling, or itching where the shot was injected.
- Arm pain
- Injection-site pain, redness, swelling, warmth, lump, or bruising
To learn more about the side effects associated with the shingles vaccine, please visit this page: Shingles Vaccine Side Effects.
In clinical trials, 1.8% of Zostavax patients developed a fever within 42 days post-vaccination.
Zostavax is associated with rare but serious side effects, including infections with the virus in the vaccine that caused death in patients who were too sick when they received the vaccine.
The most severe side effects of Zostavax include:
- Serious neurological diseases or disorders, including brain inflammation (encephalitis)
- Herpetic Neuralgia (disorder in the nerves)
- Postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN (pain continuing after shingles blister subside)
- Myelitis (spinal cord inflammation)
- Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis)
- Vision problems, including: blindness, eye infections, and retinal damage (necrotizing retinitis)
- Hearing loss
- Anaphylactic reactions
- Arthralgia (joint pain)
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Herpes zoster (vaccine strain)
- Hypersensitivity reactions
- Injection-site rash, hives
- Myalgia (muscle pain)
- Necrotizing retinitis (patients on immunosuppressive therapy)
- Shingles infection from the virus in the vaccine
Zostavax is a lyophilized preparation of the Oka/Merck strain of live, attenuated varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Zostavax, when reconstituted as directed, is a sterile suspension for subcutaneous administration. Each 0.65-mL dose contains a minimum of 19,400PFU (plaque-forming units) of Oka/Merck strain of VZV when reconstituted and stored at room temperature for up to 30 minutes.
Each dose contains 31.16 mg of sucrose, 15.58 mg of hydrolyzed porcine gelatin, 3.99 mg of sodium chloride, 0.62mg of monosodium L-glutamate, 0.57mg of sodium phosphate dibasic, 0.10mg of potassium phosphate monobasic, 0.10 mg of potassium chloride; residual components of MRC-5 cells including DNA and protein; and trace quantities of neomycin and bovine calf serum. The product contains no preservatives.
Yes. Zostavax is administered with a needle, and if the needle is injected improperly into the shoulder, it can potentially cause a Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (SIRVA).
If you or a loved one experienced a severe side effect of Zostavax, you may be eligible to file a Zostavax lawsuit against Merck & Co. A growing number of victims have already filed lawsuits accusing Merck of selling a dangerous vaccine and failing to warn about side effects.