More than 97% of people in Australia are seropositive to varicella-zoster virus (VZV) by 30 years of age,16 even if they cannot recall having varicella at a younger age.

Adults who are VZV-seronegative on laboratory testing and have no history of age-appropriate varicella vaccination may receive either:

  • 2 doses of varicella vaccine (this is preferable — see Varicella), or
  • 1 dose of Zostavax (if aged ≥50 years)

In some small studies, high-dose VZV-containing vaccine (comparable to Zostavax) was given to healthy VZV-seronegative adults and previously infected adults. The limited data suggest that Zostavax was well tolerated and immunogenic in seronegative people, but the incidence of self-limited injection site reactions may be slightly higher than in seropositive people.17,18

There are no specific studies of Zostavax safety in VZV-seronegative adults who have mild to moderate immunocompromising conditions. A cautious assessment of risk factors — both underlying disease and medications — is required in these adults.

Page history

Last updated: 
4 May 2022
Last reviewed: 
4 May 2022