22. January 2013 13:49
The UK is launching the first national shingles immunisation programme in the EU.
Zostavax from Sanofi Pasteur MSD will be given to eligible patients aged over 50 during health visits or together with the seasonal flu jab.
The decision follows an extensive review of the vaccine’s health and economic benefits, given the long-term debilitating effects of shingles.
A live attenuated vaccine, Zostavax is the first and only vaccine to prevent shingles, which is caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus.
Anyone who has had chickenpox (95% of the EU population) may later develop shingles, and the risk and severity of the condition increase with age.
Shingles causes blistering on the skin and can lead to chronic neuralgia (pain due to damaged nerves).
Zostavax has been used in the US since 2006; more than 11 million doses of the vaccine have been injected into patients worldwide.
Jean-Paul Kress, President of Sanofi Pasteur MSD, said: “We’re very pleased that the UK Department of Health has recognised the importance of vaccinating against shingles, and we look forward to more partnerships in Europe for immunisation with this truly innovative product.”
Sanofi Pasteur MSD is a joint European venture between Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of Sanofi, and Merck Sharpe & Dohme (MSD), and is the only pharmaceutical company in Europe to focus exclusively on vaccines.