New shingles vaccine now available in Australia
GSK Australia has announced that a new vaccine to help protect against shingles in adults aged 50 years and older is now available on the private market in Australia.
Approximately 120,000 new cases of shingles occur in Australia each year, accounting for about one in 1000 of all GP visits.1 While most people fully recover from shingles (herpes zoster), the condition can be a painful and potentially debilitating. Triggered by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus in adulthood, shingles can affect up to one in three people at some stage in their lives, with the risk increasing with age.2
According to infectious disease physician and clinical virologist Professor Tony Cunningham, additional options to help prevent shingles and associated complications are welcome.
“Shingles can be very painful. The pain associated with shingles is often described as burning, shooting or stabbing. The acute pain can last for between two to four weeks, with some people potentially experiencing complications and chronic pain for months.
“Shingles can be difficult to treat once the symptoms break out, so vaccines can play an important role in helping reduce the impact of the infection here in Australia where up to one in three people experience the disease,” Professor Cunningham said.
Shingrix is registered for Australian adults aged 50 years and over for the prevention of shingles and prevention of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a complication of shingles that can result in persistent nerve pain for months or years after the initial shingles rash resolves.3,4 Up to 30% of people with shingles may develop PHN.5,6
“Because most Australian adults had chickenpox as kids, it means that most of us are therefore at risk of developing shingles,” Professor Cunningham said. “Shingles involves the reactivation of the chickenpox virus; the risk of reactivation increases with age, particularly after 50 years as the immune system ages.”
GSK Australia Vaccines Medical Director Co Luu said bringing innovative medicines and vaccines to Australia is a core focus.
“GSK Australia is very proud to make this shingles vaccine available in Australia. GSK has been at the heart of research into how the immune system declines as we age, and we know that more prevention options are needed. We are thrilled that with the supply of Shingrix into Australia, we will be able to help protect more Australians from shingles,” he said.
Shingrix is a non-live, recombinant subunit vaccine given intramuscularly in two doses. It will be available via a private prescription from a medical doctor for people aged 50+.
- Jayasinghe S, Sheridan S, Macartney K. Herpes zoster vaccination in Australia: what's available and who benefits?. Aust Prescr. 2020;43(1):2-6. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2020.001
- Shingles in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2018. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/759199ff-f5c8-421d-a572-aaa984a02b49/aihw-phe-236_Shingles.pdf.aspx (Accessed Apr 2021)
- Zoster (herpes zoster). Australian Immunisation Handbook. Australian Department of Health 2020. Available at: https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/zoster-herpes-zoster#expand-collapse-all-top (Accessed Apr 2021)
- National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS). Herpes zoster factsheet. Available at: https://www.ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2018-12/zostervaccine-fact-sheet.pdf (Accessed Apr 2021)
- Wehrhahn MC, Dwyer DE. Herpes zoster: epidemiology, clinical features, treatment and preventionAust Prescr 2012;35:143-7.
- Kawai K, Gebremeskel BG, Acosta CJ. Systematic review of incidence and complications of herpes zoster: towards a global perspective. BMJ Open. 2014 Jun;4(6):e004833
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