Skip to Content

Zostavax (Subcutaneous)

Generic Name: zoster vaccine, live (Subcutaneous route)

ZOS-ter VAX-een, lyve

Medically reviewed on Oct 31, 2018

Commonly used brand name(s)

In the U.S.

  • Zostavax

In Canada

  • Varilrix

Available Dosage Forms:

  • Powder for Suspension

Therapeutic Class: Vaccine

Uses For Zostavax

Zoster vaccine, live is used to prevent herpes zoster (shingles) in patients 50 years of age and older.

This vaccine is to be administered only by or under the supervision of your doctor or other authorized health care professional.

Before Using Zostavax

In deciding to use a vaccine, the risks of taking the vaccine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this vaccine, the following should be considered:

Allergies

Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.

Pediatric

Use is not indicated in children.

Geriatric

Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of zoster vaccine in the elderly.

Breast Feeding

There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.

Interactions with Medicines

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving this vaccine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.

Receiving this vaccine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to use this vaccine or change some of the other medicines you take.

  • Alemtuzumab
  • Bendamustine
  • Bortezomib
  • Bosutinib
  • Cabazitaxel
  • Capecitabine
  • Carboplatin
  • Carfilzomib
  • Carmustine
  • Chlorambucil
  • Cisplatin
  • Cladribine
  • Clofarabine
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Cytarabine
  • Cytarabine Liposome
  • Dacarbazine
  • Dasatinib
  • Daunorubicin
  • Daunorubicin Citrate Liposome
  • Daunorubicin Liposome
  • Deflazacort
  • Docetaxel
  • Doxorubicin
  • Epirubicin
  • Etoposide
  • Fludarabine
  • Fluorouracil
  • Gemcitabine
  • Gemtuzumab Ozogamicin
  • Hydroxyurea
  • Idarubicin
  • Ifosfamide
  • Imatinib
  • Interferon Alfa
  • Irinotecan
  • Irinotecan Liposome
  • Lomustine
  • Mechlorethamine
  • Melphalan
  • Mercaptopurine
  • Methotrexate
  • Mitomycin
  • Mitoxantrone
  • Nelarabine
  • Nilotinib
  • Ofatumumab
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Paclitaxel Protein-Bound
  • Pemetrexed
  • Pentostatin
  • Ponatinib
  • Procarbazine
  • Rituximab
  • Temozolomide
  • Teniposide
  • Thiotepa
  • Topotecan
  • Tositumomab
  • Vinblastine
  • Vinorelbine

Receiving this vaccine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

  • Adalimumab
  • Antithymocyte Globulin Rabbit
  • Axicabtagene Ciloleucel
  • Azathioprine
  • Baricitinib
  • Belatacept
  • Brodalumab
  • Certolizumab Pegol
  • Cyclosporine
  • Dupilumab
  • Etanercept
  • Everolimus
  • Fingolimod
  • Golimumab
  • Guselkumab
  • Immune Globulin
  • Immune Globulin-ifas
  • Infliximab
  • Leflunomide
  • Mycophenolic Acid
  • Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent
  • Rilonacept
  • Sarilumab
  • Secukinumab
  • Sirolimus
  • Tacrolimus
  • Teriflunomide
  • Tildrakizumab-asmn
  • Tocilizumab
  • Tofacitinib
  • Trabectedin
  • Ustekinumab

Receiving this vaccine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.

  • Abatacept
  • Cytomegalovirus Immune Globulin, Human
  • Hepatitis B Immune Globulin
  • Rabies Immune Globulin
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Immune Globulin, Human
  • Tetanus Immune Globulin
  • Vaccinia Immune Globulin, Human
  • Varicella-Zoster Immune Globulin

Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol

Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Other Medical Problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this vaccine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

  • Allergy to gelatin or neomycin, history of or
  • Bone marrow cancer or
  • HIV/AIDS infection or
  • Illness with fever or
  • Immune deficiency condition, primary or acquired, history of or
  • Leukemia (cancer of the blood) or
  • Lymphoma (cancer of the immune system) or
  • Tuberculosis, active and untreated—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.

Proper Use of zoster vaccine, live

This section provides information on the proper use of a number of products that contain zoster vaccine, live. It may not be specific to Zostavax. Please read with care.

A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this vaccine. It is given as a shot under your skin (usually in the upper arm).

You may receive other vaccines (eg, Pneumovax® 23 pneumococcal vaccine) at least 4 weeks after receiving Zostavax®.

Precautions While Using Zostavax

It is important that your doctor check your progress to make sure this vaccine is working properly and to check for unwanted effects.

Do not become pregnant for 3 months after receiving zoster vaccine. There is a chance that this vaccine may cause problems during pregnancy. If you think you have become pregnant, tell your doctor right away.

You should not receive this vaccine if you are using medicine that weakens the immune system (eg, cancer medicine or steroid medicine).

This vaccine may cause a serious allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after receiving this vaccine.

You may be able to pass the virus to other people (including pregnant women who have not had chickenpox or patients with a weak immune system) after you receive this vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

Zostavax Side Effects

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

Less common

  • Collection of blood under the skin, a deep, dark purple bruise, itching, pain, redness, swelling, or a hard lump at the injection site

Incidence not known

  • Blurred vision
  • change in color vision
  • cough
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness
  • eye redness
  • fast heartbeat
  • fever
  • hives, itching, skin rash
  • increased sensitivity of the eyes to sunlight
  • pain around the eyes
  • painful blisters on the trunk of the body
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • temporary swollen, painful, or tender lymph glands in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • tightness in the chest
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vision loss

Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

Less common

  • Headache

Incidence not known

  • Difficulty in moving
  • joint pain or swelling
  • muscle ache, cramp, pain, or stiffness
  • nausea

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Hide