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Zostavax Side Effects

Generic Name: zoster vaccine live

Note: This document contains side effect information about zoster vaccine live. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Zostavax.

For the Consumer

Applies to zoster vaccine live: parenteral for injection for sub-q use

Side effects include:

Injection site reactions (erythema, pain/tenderness, swelling, pruritus, warmth, hematoma, induration), headache, extremity pain.

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to zoster vaccine live: subcutaneous powder for injection


The most common adverse events were headache and injection site reactions.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Injection site pain (up to 53.9%), injection site erythema (48.1%), injection site swelling (40.4%), pruritus (11.3%)

Common (1% to 10%): Warmth, hematoma, induration

Postmarketing reports: Injection site rash, injection site urticaria, transient injection site lymphadenopathy[Ref]

Nervous system

Common (1% to 10%): Headache, asthenia[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Death, fever, asthenia[Ref]

The most common reported cause of death was cardiovascular disease (10 in the vaccine group, 8 in the placebo group). The overall incidence of death occurring at any time during the study was similar between groups: 793 deaths (4.1%) in the vaccine group and 795 deaths (4.1%) in the placebo group.[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Congestive heart failure or pulmonary edema[Ref]

Congestive heart failure or pulmonary edema occurred in 1.5% of patients receiving the vaccine versus 1.2% of patients receiving placebo in the AE monitoring substudy.[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Respiratory infection, flu syndrome, rhinitis, respiratory disorder

Very rare (less than 0.01%): Asthma exacerbation[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Diarrhea

Postmarketing reports: Nausea[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Skin disorder

Rare (less than 0.1%): Non-injection site varicella-type rash, non-injection site zoster-like rash

Postmarketing reports: Rash[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Pain in extremity

Very rare (less than 0.01%): Polymyalgia rheumatica

Postmarketing reports: Arthralgia, myalgia[Ref]


Very rare (less than 0.01%): Anaphylactic reaction

Postmarketing reports: Hypersensitivity reactions including anaphylactic reactions[Ref]


Very rare (less than 0.01%): Varicella

Postmarketing reports: Herpes zoster (vaccine strain)[Ref]


Frequency not reported: Lymphadenopathy[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Necrotizing retinitis (patients on immunosuppressive therapy)[Ref]


1. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information." O 0

2. Cerner Multum, Inc. "UK Summary of Product Characteristics." O 0

3. "Product Information. Zostavax (zoster vaccine live)." Merck & Company Inc, West Point, PA.

Further information

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

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.