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What is Shingles Vaccine?


There are two shingles vaccines licensed for use in the U.S.; Zostavax live attenuated vaccine by Merck and Shingrix recombinant vaccine by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals.

Zostavax live attenuated shingles vaccine licensed in 2006 is a much more potent version of Varivax chickenpox vaccine containing 19,500 plaque forming units of Oka/Merck varicella zoster virus versus 1,350 plaque forming units in the chickenpox vaccine.1 Administration of this preservative free vaccine is a subcutaneous (under the skin) in a .65mL single dose series containing sucrose, hydrolyzed porcine (pig) gelatin, urea (urine component), sodium chloride, monosodium L-glutamate, sodium phosphate dibasic, potassium phosphate monobasic, potassium chloride, MRC-5 cells (1966 aborted human male lung tissue)2, neomycin and bovine (cow) calf serum (blood plasma).3 More information can be found in the manufacturer’s product insert maintained on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website.

Shingrix adjuvanted recombinant vaccine licensed in 2017 is a two dose series vaccine administered intramuscularly (injected into muscle) and is a genetically engineered vaccine. Each preservative free .5mL dose contains sucrose, sodium chloride, dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine (DOPC), potassium dihydrogen phosphate, cholesterol, sodium dihydrogen phosphate dihydrate, disodium phosphate anhydrous, dipotassium phosphate, polysorbate 80, Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell proteins, and DNA. This vaccine is an adjuvanted vaccine using AS01, which is a squalene (shark oil) based adjuvant. More information can be found in the manufacturer’s product insert maintained on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website.

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Shingles and the Shingles vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents , which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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1 Fisher, B.L., The Emerging Risks of Live Virus & Virus Vectored Vaccines. NVIC.org. 2014.

2 Coriell Institute for Medical Research. NG05965 DNA from Fibroblast. Accessed Jun. 26, 2018.

3 CDC. Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary. The Pink Book. Accessed June 2016.

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