New shingles vaccine now available in Australia, June 2021
08 June 2021
GSK Australia today 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.
While most people fully recover from shingles (herpes zoster), it can be a painful and potentially debilitating condition triggered by the reactivation of the chicken pox virus in adulthood. Shingles can affect up to 1 in 3 people at some stage in their lives, and this risk increases with age1. In Australia, it is estimated that 120,000 new cases of shingles occur each year and account for approximately one in 1000 of all GP visits2.
According to infectious disease physician and clinical virologist Professor Tony Cunningham, the availability of 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 2 to 4 weeks, with some people potentially experiencing complications and chronic pain for months”.
“Doctors never like to see their patients in pain. 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 1 in 3 people experience the disease”1 said Professor Cunningham.
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 resolves3,4. Up to 30% of people with shingles may develop PHN5,6.
“Because most Australian adults had chickenpox as kids, it means that most of us are therefore at risk of developing shingles,” Prof Cunningham said 2, 7. “Shingles involves the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, the risk of reactivation increases with age, particularly after 50 years as the immune system ages.”4
Co Luu, Vaccines Medical Director at GSK Australia, says 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,” said Mr Luu.
“GSK is committed to bringing innovative solutions to the people who need them most, and today’s announcement is evidence of that.” 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+.
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Shingles (herpes zoster) is an illness caused by the varicella zoster virus. It occurs in people who have previously had chickenpox, when the virus is reactivated in the nerve tissue. People with shingles can experience a painful blistering rash. In most people, herpes zoster is a self-limiting disease and most people recover fully. Post-herpetic neuralgia, a common complication of shingles, causes a persistent burning pain that can last over 3 months. Shingles occurs when the virus that’s already in your body reactivates so it cannot be passed from one person to another. However, since the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles are the same, if a person who has never had or isn’t protected against chickenpox, comes into contact with someone with shingles, they may get chickenpox. Up to 1 in 3 people can develop shingles in their lifetime. The risk of shingles increases with age and is most common in those aged 50 and older. People who are immunocompromised are also at increased risk.3
Shingrix [recombinant Varicella Zoster Virus glycoprotein E antigen (AS01B adjuvanted vaccine)] is a non-live, recombinant subunit vaccine indicated in Australia to help prevent shingles (herpes zoster) and post-herpetic neuralgia in people aged 50 years or older.
Shingrix Important Safety Information
Contraindications: Do not have SHINGRIX if you are allergic (hypersensitive) to any of the ingredients contained in SHINGRIX.
Special warnings and precautions: Tell your doctor or nurse before you receive SHINGRIX:
- if you have an infection with a high temperature. In these cases, the vaccination may be postponed until recovery. A minor infection such as a cold should not be a problem but talk to your doctor first.
- if you have a bleeding problem or bruise easily.
- if you fainted with a previous injection. Fainting can occur following, or even before, any needle injection.
- if you have been told by your doctor that you have a weakened immune system as a result of a disease, medications, (including high-dose corticosteroids or cancer medicines), or other treatment.
Interactions: Can be given concomitantly with unadjuvanted seasonal influenza vaccine. Administer at different injection sites. Pregnancy; no data, (category B2). Lactation safety information not available.
Adverse effects: The following side effects may occur after receiving SHINGRIX:
Very common (these may occur with more than 1 in 10 doses of the vaccine):
- stomach and digestive complaints (including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and/or stomach pain)
- muscle pain (myalgia)
- pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- tiredness, chills, fever
Common (these may occur with up to 1 in 10 doses of the vaccine):
- injection site itching (pruritus)
- generally feeling unwell
Other side effects not listed above, can also occur during or soon after a dose of SHINGRIX
Ask your healthcare professional for more information about your risk of shingles.
GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer.
We work closely with leading local researchers and clinicians to ensure that Australian patients can access the latest global innovations, as they happen. We are committed to clinical data transparency and making our study results public, regardless of whether they reflect positively or negatively on our products. For further information please visit www.gsk.com/about-us.
- 1. 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)
- 2. 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
- 3. 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)
- 4. 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)
- 5. Wehrhahn MC, Dwyer DE. Herpes zoster: epidemiology, clinical features, treatment and preventionAust Prescr 2012;35:143-7.
- 6. 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
- 7. Ward K, Dey A, Hull B, Quinn HE, Macartney K, Menzies R Evaluation of Australia's varicella vaccination program for children and adolescents. Vaccine. 2013 Feb 27; 31(10):1413-9.
- 8. Shingrix Approved Product Information
PBS Information: Shingrix is not listed on the PBS or National Immunisation Program