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Shingles vax listed on NIP
The shingles vaccination, Zostavax, (Zoster Virus Vaccine Live (Oka/Merck))
was added to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) on 1 November.
It will be free for eligible 70–79 year olds
to help protect them against shingles
and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). It
is the first adult vaccine listed on the
National Immunisation Program (NIP) in
Zostavax is the only vaccine presently
available to help protect against
shingles and PHN.
Ninety-seven percent of adult
Australians are at risk of shingles1 due
to the presence of the latent varicela-
zoster virus (VZV). Herpes Zoster (HZ)
or shingles is caused by reactivation of
dormant VZV which resides in the dorsal
root ganglia after primary chicken pox
Shingles is unpredictable and
there is no way to know how severe it
will be or how long the pain will last.
Approximately 120,000 cases of shingles
are reported annually in Australia,
with the burden of shingles in Australia
increasing over time, most prominently
in the older population.
one in three Australians will develop
the condition in their lifetime.
and nerve damage caused by shingles
can begin before the rash is visible and
go on to cause complications in some
people after the rash has disappeared.
Professor Dominic Dwyer, Clinical
Professor at the Western Clinical School of
the University of Sydney, and Institute for
Clinical Pathology and Medical Research,
NSW Health Pathology said pharmacists
had an important role in let people
over the age of 70 know the shingles
vaccination is now available on the NIP.
‘As the incidence and severity of
shingles increases with age, being
able to help reduce the risk of shingles
and its resulting complications is an
important step forward in protecting
the health of older Australians.
‘ The Government’s investment in
Zostavax on the NIP is recognition of
the significant impact shingles and
postherpetic neuralgia can have on
older Australians and the importance
of keeping this contributing generation
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healthy and active in our communities.’
Professor Dwyer said.
The frequency and severity of
complications increases with age,
particularly after the age of 70.
most common complication is PHN,
which may affect up to 1 in 5 patients.
This nerve pain can be severe and may
last for months or even years, with some
patients experiencing pain for an average
of three and a half years.
PHN can also
significantly diminish quality of life.2
Ophthalmic zoster, which occurs in up to
25% of shingles cases, can lead to facial
scarring and in rare cases, loss of vision.5
Shingles can also lead to a range of other
complications such as secondary bacterial
skin infection, neurological complications
and may also increase the risk of stroke in
the following six months.
Zostavax is indicated for the prevention of
herpes zoster (shingles) in individuals 50
years of age and older, for the prevention
of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and for
reduction of acute and chronic zoster-
associated pain in individuals 60 years of
age and older.
1. Stein AN et. Al. Vaccine 2009;24:520–29.
2. Harpaz R, et al. Prevention of Herpes Zoster. MMRW 2008 Jun
6; 57(RR-5):1–30 .
3. NCIRS Herpes Zoster Factsheet Jul 2015. At: www.Nciirs.edua.
au/provider-resources/ncirs-fact-sheets/ Accessed Oct 2016.
4. MacIntyre R, et al, Increasing Trends of Herpes Zoster in
Australia. PLoS One 2015; 10(4):e0125025.
5. Oxman MN. Varicella-zoster virus: virology and clinical
management. Cambridge University Press. Ch 13 2000;246–75.
6. Zostavax Approved Product Information, Amended Apr 2016.
7. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Ed. (2016 update).
Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health, 2016.
8. Serpell M, et al. Burden of post-herpetic neuralgia in a sample
of UK residents aged 50 years or older: findings from the zoster
quality of life (ZQOL) study, Health Qual Life Outcomes 2014;12 92.
9. Langan SM, et al. 2014 Risk of Stroke Following Herpes Zoster:
A Self-Controlled Case Series Study; 58: 1497–1503.
cases of shingles are
reported annually in
Australia,4 with the burden
of shingles in Australia
increasing over time, most
prominently in the older
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