Shingles Home > Zostavax Side Effects

Injection site reactions, such as redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness, are the most common side effects reported with Zostavax. Reactions may also include fever, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms. There are also a number of rare but potentially serious problems with Zostavax that should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately, such as heart problems, worsening of asthma, or any signs of an allergic reaction.

An Introduction to Zostavax Side Effects

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with Zostavax® (shingles vaccine); however, not everyone who takes the medication will experience side effects. In fact, most people tolerate it quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or can easily be treated by you or your healthcare provider.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with Zostavax. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Common Side Effects of Zostavax

Zostavax has been studied thoroughly in clinical trials. In these studies, the side effects that occur in a group of people who received the vaccine are documented and are then compared to side effects that occur in another group of people who received a placebo injection (with no active ingredients). This way, it is possible to see what side effects occur, how often they appear, and how they compare to the group who received a placebo.
In these studies, the most common Zostavax side effects included:
  • Injection site reactions, such as:
    • Pain or tenderness -- in up to 53.9 percent of people
    • Redness -- up to 48.1 percent
    • Swelling -- up to 40.4 percent
    • Itching -- up to 11.3 percent
    • Warmth -- up to 3.7 percent
    • Bruising -- up to 1.4 percent
    • A lump -- up to 1.1 percent
  • Headaches -- up to 9.4 percent
  • Respiratory infection (such as the common cold) -- up to 1.9 percent
  • Fever -- up to 1.8 percent
  • Flu-like symptoms (such as chills and body aches) -- up to 1.8 percent
  • Diarrhea -- up to 1.5 percent
  • Runny or stuffy nose -- up to 1.4 percent
  • Arm or leg pain -- up to 1.3 percent.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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