shingles is a common condition that affects millions of Americans. In fact, 1 in 3 Americans develops shingles in their lifetime. This condition is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. When you develop shingles, you will typically have a painful rash that is characterized by blisters on one side of the body (the blisters can cause extensive pain and scarring over time). Zostavax is a vaccine that is used to prevent shingles in adults.

People over 50 years old are prone to developing shingles even if they’ve had the virus before. This is because the shingles virus sometimes remains embedded in the nerve cells of your body, and it can become reactivated after many years. Some patients also end up developing a condition called PHN- Post-Herpic Neuralgia. PHN is characterized by nerve pain, which may last for months or even years.

As a vaccine, Zostavax essentially coaches your immune system to fight against the shingles virus. The big question that lingers in patients is whether Zostavax is safe and effective to use. There are cases where patients with shingles have obtained serious injuries such as meningitis, permanent blindness, and diagnosed heart failure.

In recent months, a newer vaccine against shingles (called Shingrix) was approved by the FDA. Shingrix is proposed to be safer and more effective than Zostavax.

What is Zostavax?

zostavax is a vaccine that is administered to prevent patients from contracting shingles. As you grow older, the risk of contracting shingles and PHN increases. People who developed chickenpox many years ago may still have the virus lingering in their nerve cells. The CDC recommends that Americans 60 years and older should receive a vaccine against shingles, and Zostavax is one of those vaccines.

Zostavax is a live attenuated vaccine that works to stimulate the immune system. What does attenuated mean? Similar to most live vaccines, Zostavax introduces a weakened version of the shingles virus into your body. Your immune system will then produce antibodies to fight this weakened virus and to prevent infection. Once the antibodies have been produced, they remain active in your body for many years to come (sometimes they remain active throughout your life). Therefore, the Zosatavax vaccine teaches your immune system how to keep the shingles virus at bay.

When most people are younger, they contract the shingles virus (called Varicella-zoster) and end up having chickenpox. Some people may even contract the virus without showing chickenpox symptoms. In such cases, the virus remains dormant in the body for many years, kept at bay by antibodies produced by your immune system. But as you get older, your immune system becomes weaker, and this may reactivate the shingles virus. It is at this stage that older people develop shingles instead of chickenpox.

Through a single dosage, Zostavax introduces weakened Varicella-zoster viruses into your body so that your immune system can produce the relevant antibodies.

The Zostavax vaccine is administered as an injection under the skin or into the muscles.

Since it’s FDA approval in 2006, Zostavax has been reducing the risk of shingles in older Americans by 51%, and the risk of PHN by 67%. It’s important to note that shingles can also cause more severe health complications when left untreated. In particular, shingles can cause:

  • Bacterial infections in the skin
  • Loss of hearing and/or vision
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Weakness

Is Zostavax Right For You?

in general, all persons over 60 years old are advised to take Zostavax (or other vaccines against shingles). As you get older, the risk of the shingles virus becoming reactivated increases. And with a weaker immune system, shingles and PHN can be particularly damaging to your health.

Most people mistakenly think that since they’ve has chickenpox before, they don’t need the Zostavax vaccine. However, shingles can still occur in the future when the lingering virus overpowers your immune system. You can typically take Zostavax at any time after having shingles. The only limitation is that you should ensure the rashes have fully disappeared before being vaccinated.

What if you’re between 50-59 years old and you still wish to take Zostavax? In such cases, there are several important factors to consider. Persons in this age bracket typically enjoy protection from the shingles virus for about 5 years. As a result, the vaccine may wane in strength later in life. You may need to take the shingles virus again after you turn 60 years old.

People Who Should Avoid Zostavax

the Zostavax vaccine is not for everyone. Various pre-existing health conditions and risk factors can cause adverse health effects on your body. Here are some common conditions in patients who should avoid this shingles vaccine.

People who are allergic to Zostavax

If you’re allergic to Zostavax or any of its ingredients, you should avoid taking this vaccine. Gelatin is an ingredient of Zostavax that causes many different allergic reactions. In addition, other components of the mixture (such as sucrose, sodium chloride, disodium phosphate, and urea) may also spark an allergic reaction.

You should avoid this vaccine if you’ve had reactions such as facial swelling, hives, and difficulty when breathing.

Persons who are pregnant

Pregnant persons should also not take Zostavax during pregnancy. This is because the immune system is highly sensitive at this time, and the weakened shingles virus can result in many different complications. Zostavax should also be avoided when breastfeeding.

Persons with a weak immune system

The Zostavax vaccine works on the premise of a strong immune system. You need your immune system to be strong enough to produce antibodies against the weakened shingles virus.

Patients who have weakened immune systems should not take Zostavax. For example, patients with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and bone marrow issues can be affected by taking this vaccine. In addition, patients undergoing cancer treatment (such as chemo or radiotherapy) should also avoid Zostavax.

Persons taking immunosuppressants

Immunosuppressant medications can also increase your risk of complications when taking Zostavax. Avoid taking this vaccine if you’re currently using immunosuppressants such as tacrolimus or steroids.


Zostavax is also not for children or adolescents. It is also not to be administered to prevent chickenpox. Even though this vaccine uses a weakened version of the same virus, its applications are specifically suited for adults over 60 years old.

There are several precautions patients can take before considering Zostavax. For example, if you have a history of allergic reactions to various medications, avoid taking Zostavax before consulting your doctor. You should also carefully consider your current health condition. Patients with a fever or an active HIV infection should typically avoid taking this vaccine. Fever is an indication of an infection. Taking Zostavax when you have a fever may further compromise your health.

Dosage Information

the Zostavax vaccine is administered as a single injection under the skin. In most cases, a dosage contains about 0.65ml of the mixture. However, your doctor may vary the dosage based on your body weight, current health condition, and other medications you may be taking.

Due to the sensitive nature of live vaccines, taking them in the right dosage is extremely important. An overdose can cause many different health complications related to your immune system. Patients should carefully adhere to the dosage recommended by their doctor.

Each dose of the Zostavax vaccine contains the following ingredients.

  • The active attenuated Varicella-zoster virus (the shingles virus)
  • The powder medium consisting of sucrose, potassium chloride, sodium hydroxide, among other components
  • Water as a solvent for the injection

In its packaging, Zostavax comes in the form of a powder. The powder is then dissolved in a solvent to create the solution for injection. When dissolved, a clear and colorless liquid is produced and placed in the injection vial.

If not being used immediately, Zostavax is typically stored away from light and between a temperature range of 2-8 degrees Celsius (or colder).

How effective is Zostavax?

acommon question that most patients ask is how effective Zostavax is at preventing shingles in adults. As previously mentioned, shingles and PHN can result in more serious health conditions over time. For example, bacterial infections, muscle paralysis, and loss of vision/hearing can occur due to shingles (these initially painful blisters can be even more harmful when they occur around the eyes and ears).

Zostavax has a reliable success rate at preventing shingles. 51% of patients who take this vaccine are protected against shingles, while 67% of patients are protected against PHN. These results were based on a study of roughly 38,000 adults of age 60 and above.

The older a patient gets, the less effective Zostavax becomes (primarily because of the state of one’s immune system). Older persons, especially those over 80 years old, tend to have weaker immune systems than patients in their early 60s.

Zostavax also becomes less effective over the years. After the first year, this vaccine is between 15% -25% less effective and protection typically wears off after 9 years.

Side effects

perhaps the most important information patients seek to find out about Zostavax is its side effects. As with many different types of medication, Zostavax has many side effects patients should be aware of. Side effects are often a cause of controversy for medicines, and the Zostavax vaccine is no different. In fact, side effects are a common cause of drug injury and compensation claims by patients.

In the case of Zostavax, there are both common and more serious side effects that you should be aware of.

  1. Common side effects

    Common side effects Common side effects are less serious conditions that may be caused by the Zostavax vaccine. These conditions affect 1 in 10 people taking the vaccine, and they eventually go away on their own or through taking medication. Commonside effects of Zostavax include:

    • Fever and headache
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea
    • Joint and muscle pain
    • Weakness and flu-like symptoms
    • Redness or irritation at the injection site
    • Sinus and lung infections
  2. Serious side effects

    Zostavax may also cause other more serious side effects in patients. While less common to occur, you should be aware of some of these conditions so you can contact your healthcare provider as soon as they come up.

    • Swollen glands
    • Hives
    • Difficulty breathing or swallowing food
    • Retina damage due to inflammation in or around the eye

You should also be cognizant of any medications you’re taking along with Zostavax. The vaccine may interact with medications such as famciclovir, leflunomide, acyclovir, and methotrexate. These interactions are potentially harmful and may cause serious side effects.

To prevent this risk, patients should either stop taking one of the involved medications or change the type of medicine being consumed. If you’re considering taking Zostavax, consult your doctor about any other medications you may be taking.

Is Zostavax Safe?

adults looking for effective protection against shingles may be wondering if Zostavax is a truly safe vaccine. There are many different factors that go into preparing a vaccine for patient use. Manufacturers must consider a patient’s overall health, pre-existing conditions, allergic reactions, and efficacy rate.

When administered correctly, Zostavax does offer protection against shingles and is reasonably safe to use. It is important for patients and healthcare providers to be aware of any pre-existing conditions that may affect a patient’s health before administering Zostavax. The most common safety precaution is to avoid administering this vaccine to patients with weakened immune systems (based on how Zostavax works inside the body).

As safe as this vaccine is proposed to be, Zostavax is a live vaccine that may cause many different complications in patients. In addition to affecting the immune system, Zostavax can also cause serious health conditions such as meningitis and brain inflammation. There have been lawsuits filed for injury and disease caused by taking the Zostavax vaccine. Some of these concerns are what ultimately resulted in the production of a more effective vaccine against shingles in adults. Called Shingrix, this vaccine was approved by the FDA in late 2017. It is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and it works for patients 50 years and older.

Zostavax vs Shingrix

with both Zostavax and Shingrix being available for vaccination against shingles, how do they stack up against each other? Which is the better option to use? While both vaccines have the same goal of preventing shingles, Shingrix is proposed to be safer and more effective than Zostavax. This is because Shingrix isn’t a live attenuated virus. Instead, it consists of a sub-unit component of the actual virus. This means that your immune system can safely produce the relevant antibodies against shingles without having to endure an actual virus in the body.

Because Zostavax uses an actual live attenuated virus, the potential bodily risks are more significant. Even a weakened version of the virus can cause adverse effects to your body, especially if you already have a weakened immune system.

While Zostavax has a 51% efficiency rate against shingles, Shingrix has been shown to be 97% effective for people between 50- 59 years, and 91% effective in patients over 70. However, there are still cases where patients may opt to use Zostavax. For example, patients who are allergic to Shingrix may have Zostavax as their only available option. In addition, Zostavax has been around for a longer period of time and patients may feel more comfortable using a tried and true drug in the market as opposed to a new alternative. Regardless of the choice you make, it’s important to be aware of the risks posed by both vaccines before taking the injection.

You Can Claim Compensation for Damages After Taking Zostavax

as with any other medication approved by the FDA and used in the US, you can claim compensation for any damages incurred after taking Zostavax. While this vaccine is helpful in protecting against shingles, some patients have experienced serious health complications after using Zostavax. Some of these complications were not listed in the side effects of the medication or were not experienced during clinical trials.

These unanticipated health complications are the most devastating to patients. You may have been vigilant to cover yourself against any allergic reactions, risk factors, and side effects, only to experience a serious health complication from the Zostavax vaccine. Such cases warrant appropriate liability compensation.

Patients who are currently over 50 years old- and were treated with Zostavax between 2010 and present- can claim compensation if they suffered from certain serious medical conditions. Many of these health conditions are vaccine-related reactions that affected the patient’s immune system (owing to the live virus nature of Zostavax). Health complications that warrant compensation include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Varicella Pneumonia

This is a condition associated with the shingles virus. It is a type of pneumonia that causes small round lesions around the lungs. In some cases, patients who take Zostavax may contract Varicella Pneumonia due to injection of the weakened virus into the body.

  • Permanent Blindness

In some cases, the attenuated virus may also interfere with a patient’s vision and result in blindness. This particularly happens when the vaccine causes frequent recurrences of shingles that may occur in and around the eyes.

  • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)

Zostavax may also cause an infection in the brain, leading to inflammation. Encephalitis is often characterized by seizures, weakness, loss of sensation, and hallucinations.

  • Meningitis

Meningitis is another brain condition that can be caused by Zostavax. A viral infection to the brain typically causes meningitis and inflammation of the spinal cord membranes. In particular, the weakened shingles virus may result in this complication after taking Zostavax.

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome

In rare circumstances, patients who took Zostavax can develop Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This condition is characterized by your body’s immune system attacking the nerves. The shingles virus tends to remain dormant within your nerves, and taking the Zostavax vaccine can potentially cause an overreaction of the immune system. Guillain-Barre Syndrome causes impeded motor functions and can lead to paralysis.

  • Vasculitis

Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels caused by a viral infection. Patients with this condition typically suffer from inadequate blood flow to important organs around the body. Fever, fatigue, and muscle/joint pain are also symptoms of Vasculitis.

  • Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)

ADEM is a condition where nerve fibers around the brain and spinal cord are attacked by the immune system. ADEM is also caused by viral infections and overreaction of one’s immune system as a bodily response. The end result is nerve damage to the affected areas.

  • Diagnosed Heart Failure

Heat failure or other cardiovascular complications can also occur after taking Zostavax. Though rare, heat complications were reported in at least 1% of individuals during the clinical trials for this vaccine. The low but still present possibility of heart failure is also expressed on the manufacturer website as part of its safety information regarding the live virus.

  • Death
  • Recurrence of Shingles

Filing A Zostavax Lawsuit Near Me

based on the potential risks that using Zostavax can cause, it’s important for patients to know where to turn to if this vaccine has harmed them. The injuries and medical complications arising from using Zostavax can be both costly and damaging.

Before receiving this vaccine, patients should be made fully aware of the side effects and risk factors involved. Any cases of negligence during vaccine administration form strong grounds for a lawsuit. More importantly, the above cases that arose from using Zostavax may also necessitate compensation. Any patients who to took this vaccine after 2010 and suffered from the above conditions should file a lawsuit for adequate compensation.

However, preparing a lawsuit against a particular drug can be challenging. The specific medical terminology and effects may go over the heads of most people. That is why Consumer Alert Now is here to help. We are experts in representing patients who’ve been harmed by consuming a particular dug.

The live virus nature of Zostavax makes this vaccine pose unique risks that may not have been foreseen. In addition, the medical conditions outlined above are both grave and costly to deal with. Some may even result in loss of life. Therefore, preparing a strong case for injury from consuming Zostavax is important for you or your loved ones.

Did using the Zostavax vaccine cause injury or death to you or a loved one? Contact us today at (800) 511-0747