The shingles vaccine, also known as Zostavax, does contain a live, active virus, according to the FDA. Since the vaccine contains a live virus, it should not be given to patients who have weakened immune systems.
Zostavax is a vaccine that has been licensed by the FDA to prevent the varicella zoster virus from occurring in patients above the age of 50, states the FDA. The varicella zoster virus causes shingles, or herpes zoster, in individuals who have already had chicken pox in their lifetime. The varicella zoster virus also causes chicken pox, and once people have had chicken pox, the virus stays dormant in their nerve cells for the rest of their lives. The virus can reactivate and turn into shingles as people grow older. The Zostavax vaccine may prevent the virus from reactivating in susceptible patients.