The FDA approved Zostavax in 2006 as a vaccine intended to prevent shingles in adults 50 years of age and older. However, the CDC recommends only administering the vaccine to those healthy adults who are over the age of 59. Until 2017, Zostavax was the only vaccine on the market licensed to prevent the shingles virus or herpes zoster. The pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co. makes the Zostavax vaccine. It is administered as a one-time injectable dose at a doctor’s office or pharmacy, and the effectiveness only lasts for five years.
Symptoms of the shingles virus manifest along one side of the body as a painful rash. The skin may also blister. Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus or varicella zoster. Chickenpox can remain dormant in your nerve tissues for years and may reactivate when your immune system weakens with age or illness.
Zostavax, a live vaccine, contains a live but weakened strain of the chickenpox virus. This small amount of live virus activates the immune system. By fighting this strain of chickenpox or varicella zoster virus, the patient can generally build up immunity and prevent shingles.