ZOSTAVAX: Zoster Vaccine Live

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LEARN HOW ZOSTAVAX CAN HELP PROTECT YOU FROM SHINGLES.

Frequently asked questions.

Find the answers to your questions about Shingles and ZOSTAVAX below.

The questions visitors have found most helpful are nearest the top.

What causes Shingles?

You can't catch Shingles from someone who has it. Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus. Once you've had chickenpox, the virus remains in your nervous system. If your immune system weakens, the virus can reemerge as Shingles. As you age, your immune system naturally becomes weaker. And your risk for Shingles increases as you get older.

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Does my private insurance cover ZOSTAVAX?

Many private insurance plans cover ZOSTAVAX, and if your health care professional has ZOSTAVAX, he or she may be able to give you the vaccine without requiring an upfront payment from you. It’s a good idea to contact your insurance provider before your appointment to ask about your insurance coverage for ZOSTAVAX. That way, you'll know what to expect, since not all private insuance plans provide coverage for ZOSTAVAX.

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Are there any long-term complications from Shingles?

Out of every four patients who get Shingles, one person will experience one or more complications, some of which may be serious.

Most people recover from the nerve pain of Shingles as the rash heals. But one in five people who develop Shingles will experience postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, nerve pain that can develop even after the rash heals. This nerve pain can range from mild to severe and debilitating and can last from a few months to several years.

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Should I get ZOSTAVAX once a year, like the flu vaccine?

No. You do not need to get ZOSTAVAX once a year.

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Can ZOSTAVAX treat Shingles?

No. ZOSTAVAX is not a treatment for Shingles it's a vaccine you can get now to help reduce your risk of getting Shingles in the future. ZOSTAVAX cannot be used to treat Shingles or the nerve pain that may follow Shingles, once you have it.

ZOSTAVAX is also not a treatment for chickenpox. ZOSTAVAX does not protect everyone, so some people who get the vaccine may still get Shingles.

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If I've had chickenpox, does that mean I can get Shingles?

Yes. The same virus that causes chickenpox stays in your body and can later resurface as Shingles, which can be a painful, blistering rash. It doesn?t matter how healthy you feel. Shingles can happen when you least expect it.

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What are the ingredients of ZOSTAVAX?

Active Ingredient: a weakened form of the varicella-zoster virus.

Inactive Ingredients: sucrose, hydrolyzed porcine gelatin, sodium chloride, monosodium L-glutamate, sodium phosphate dibasic, potassium phosphate monobasic, potassium chloride.

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How much does the Shingles vaccine cost?

The cost for ZOSTAVAX, the Shingles vaccine, will vary depending on your age and insurance coverage. Contact your insurance company to find out the cost of ZOSTAVAX under your current plan.

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Can I get Shingles more than once?

It is possible to get Shingles more than once. So if you've had Shingles before, it's still important to talk to your health care professional about your risk of getting it again.

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Is Shingles contagious?

You cannot get Shingles from another person by sneezing or coughing or through casual contact. The only way to get Shingles is by first having chickenpox. However, if a person has never had chickenpox and has direct contact with the Shingles rash when it is still blistering, he or she can get chickenpox, which can later resurface as Shingles.

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Does Medicare cover ZOSTAVAX?

ZOSTAVAX falls under Medicare Part D (not Part B).

Some vaccines can be covered under the medical benefits available through Medicare Part B. But ZOSTAVAX is treated as a prescription benefit by Medicare, which is why it can only be reimbursed under Part D. While ZOSTAVAX can be covered under Medicare Part D, not all people with Part D insurance will receive reimbursement for ZOSTAVAX.

If ZOSTAVAX is covered by your Medicare Part D plan and if your health care professional can submit and process your claim he or she may do so on your behalf. However, you will still be responsible for all other costs and co-pays related to your appointment. Your personal insurance coverage can also be impacted by any deductibles, limits and/or co-pays that apply to you.

If the vaccine is covered by your Medicare Part D plan but your health care professional cannot submit and process your claim you may be required to make an upfront payment and then submit your claim for reimbursement. Please note that even if you have some coverage for ZOSTAVAX, the amount reimbursed to you by your Part D plan may be less than the amount of your upfront payment. It is a good idea to contact your Medicare Part D plan to learn what coverage is available to you and what process your plan has for submitting a claim.

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Who should get ZOSTAVAX?

ZOSTAVAX is a vaccine that can help prevent Shingles in adults, 50 years of age and older. You should not get ZOSTAVAX if you are allergic to any of its ingredients, including gelatin and neomycin, have a weakened immune system, take high doses of steroids, or are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

ZOSTAVAX works by helping your immune system keep the Shingles virus in check. And the sooner you get vaccinated, the better your chances of protecting yourself from Shingles.

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What does Shingles look like?

Shingles typically appears as a rash on one side of the body. The rash begins as a cluster of small red spots that often blister. As the rash heals, these blisters may crust over and become flaky in appearance. If you would like to see pictures of what Shingles looks like, you can view the photo gallery.

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Where is the vaccine injection site?

ZOSTAVAX is injected as a single dose under the skin usually in the shoulder area of the upper arm.

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Who shouldn’t get ZOSTAVAX?

You should not get ZOSTAVAX if you:

  • are allergic to any of its ingredients.
  • are allergic to gelatin or neomycin.
  • have a weakened immune system (for example, an immune deficiency, leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV/AIDS).
  • take high doses of steroids by injection or by mouth.
  • are pregnant or plan to get pregnant.

You should not get ZOSTAVAX to prevent chickenpox. Children should not get ZOSTAVAX.

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What should I tell my health care professional before I get ZOSTAVAX?

You should tell your health care professional if you:

  • have or have had any medical problems.
  • take any medicines, including nonprescription medicines, and dietary supplements.
  • have any allergies, including allergies to neomycin or gelatin.
  • had an allergic reaction to another vaccine.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • are breast-feeding.

Tell your health care professional if you expect to be in close contact (including household contact) with newborn infants, someone who may be pregnant and has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox, or someone who has problems with their immune system. Your health care professional can tell you what situations you may need to avoid.

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Does getting vaccinated against Shingles require multiple shots?

ZOSTAVAX is given as a single shot. ZOSTAVAX cannot be used to treat Shingles, or the nerve pain that may follow Shingles, once you have it. The need for revaccination has not been established. Talk to your health care professional to see if ZOSTAVAX is right for you.

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I have allergies. Should I still get ZOSTAVAX?

You should not get ZOSTAVAX if you are allergic to any of its ingredients, including gelatin or neomycin.

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Is herpes zoster the same as genital herpes or herpes simplex?

The herpes virus that causes Shingles and chickenpox, the
varicella-zoster virus, is not the same as the herpes virus that causes genital herpes and herpes mouth sores.

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What are the symptoms of Shingles?

Shingles is a rash that usually appears on one side of the body. The rash begins as a cluster of small red spots that often blister. The rash can also be painful. Shingles rashes can last up to 30 days and, for most people, the pain associated with the rash lessens as it heals.

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Am I really at risk for Shingles?

If you've ever had chickenpox, you're at risk for Shingles. And as you get older, your risk increases. It doesn’t matter how healthy you feel. Because the immune system can weaken as you age, viruses, like the one that causes Shingles, can resurface. There’s no real way to predict if or when it will happen to you. But the facts clearly show that the older you get, the greater your risk of developing Shingles.

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What increases my risk for Shingles?

Even adults who feel healthy can get Shingles. Once you've had chickenpox, the virus remains in your body and can resurface as Shingles without warning. Aging and problems with the immune system may increase your chances of getting Shingles.

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How does ZOSTAVAX work?

ZOSTAVAX works by helping your immune system protect you from getting Shingles. It is thought that ZOSTAVAX does this by helping to provide a boost to the immune system to help control or suppress the Shingles virus.

The same virus that causes Shingles also causes chickenpox. If you've had chickenpox, the Shingles virus never left your body. But throughout life, your immune system has kept the virus in check by developing specific defenses to help suppress it.

Because the immune system weakens as you age, the body?s immunity to the Shingles virus declines. When that happens, it can reactivate as the painful, blistering rash of Shingles. This is why your chances of developing Shingles increase as you get older.

ZOSTAVAX is believed to boost your immune system so it is better able to keep the virus in check.

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Where can I get ZOSTAVAX?

At certain medical practices and pharmacies. Click here to find locations near you.

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What are the side effects of ZOSTAVAX?

The most common side effects that people in the clinical studies reported after receiving the vaccine include:

  • redness, pain, itching, swelling, hard lump, warmth, or bruising where the shot was given
  • headache

The following additional side effects have been reported in general use with ZOSTAVAX:

  • allergic reactions, which may be serious and may include difficulty in breathing or swallowing. If you have an allergic reaction, call your health care professional right away.
  • chickenpox
  • fever
  • hives at the injection site
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • nausea
  • rash
  • rash at the injection site
  • Shingles
  • swollen glands near the injection site (that may last a few days to a few weeks)

Tell your health care professional if you have any new or unusual symptoms after you receive ZOSTAVAX. For a complete list of side effects, ask your health care professional.

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Does ZOSTAVAX prevent Shingles?

ZOSTAVAX is not a treatment for Shingles, it's a vaccine you can get now to help reduce your risk of getting Shingles in the future.

ZOSTAVAX does not protect everyone, so some people who get the vaccine may still get Shingles. ZOSTAVAX works by helping your immune system keep the Shingles virus in check. And the sooner you get vaccinated, the better your chances of protecting yourself from Shingles. If you do get Shingles even though you have been vaccinated, ZOSTAVAX may help prevent the nerve pain that can follow Shingles in some people.

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Can I get ZOSTAVAX with other vaccines?

Talk to your health care professional if you plan to get ZOSTAVAX at the same time as PNEUMOVAX®23 (Pneumococal Vaccine Polyvalent) because it may be better to get these vaccines at least 4 weeks apart.

Talk to your health care professional if you plan to get ZOSTAVAX at the same time as any other vaccine.

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Is there a test that can tell me if I’ve had chickenpox?

If you’re unsure whether you’ve had chickenpox, you can be tested to find out for sure. Talk to your health care professional to find out how.

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Interested in hearing what other people have to say about Shingles?
Check out these real stories about people with Shingles.

About ZOSTAVAX

ZOSTAVAX is a vaccine used for adults 50 years of age or older to prevent Shingles (also known as zoster).

Important Safety Information

  • ZOSTAVAX does not protect everyone, so some people who get the vaccine may still get Shingles.
  • You should not get ZOSTAVAX if you are allergic to any of its ingredients, including gelatin or neomycin, have a weakened immune system, take high doses of steroids, or are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. You should not get ZOSTAVAX to prevent chickenpox.
  • Talk to your health care professional if you plan to get ZOSTAVAX at the same time as PNEUMOVAX®23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) because it may be better to get these vaccines at least 4 weeks apart.
  • Possible side effects include redness, pain, itching, swelling, hard lump, warmth, or bruising at the injection site, as well as headache.
  • ZOSTAVAX contains a weakened chickenpox virus. Tell your health care professional if you will be in close contact with newborn infants, someone who may be pregnant and has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox, or someone who has problems with their immune system. Your health care professional can tell you what situations you may need to avoid.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please read the Patient Information for ZOSTAVAX and discuss it with your health care professional. The physician Prescribing Information also is available.

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