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GPs poised for national shingles immunisation programme as vaccine for elderly moves closer

The Department of Health has successfully resolved supply problems with the shingles vaccine, paving the way for a national immunisation programme in the elderly.

A DH spokesperson told Pulse an ‘adequate supply of vaccine' was now available, and that it was looking at whether the
programme would be cost-effective.

It comes as the largest study of the herpes zoster vaccine to date showed it was associated with a low risk of serious adverse events.

In 2010, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended the DH consider a programme for all adults aged between 70 and 79, because of the higher risk of serious infection and hospitalisation from shingles in this group.

The DH accepted the recommendation and announced plans to vaccinate 4.7 million patients, but in February this year said it had been forced to delay the plans because there was ‘not enough vaccine available'.

But this week a DH spokesperson told Pulse this problem has been resolved: ‘The DH is looking at whether vaccinating people aged between 70 and 79 years against shingles is cost-
effective, now that adequate supply of vaccine is available. 

‘This follows advice from the Government's independent vaccine advisory panel.'

GPs welcomed the move,
as a US study showed a low
rate of serious complications when herpes zoster vaccination was widely used in the community.

The study in nearly 200,000 patients aged 50 or over showed vaccination was associated with a doubling of the risk of an allergic reaction such as swelling or itching in the first seven days after administration. 

But there was no evidence of any increased risk of serious adverse reactions such as stroke or CVD.

Study leader Dr Hung Fu Tseng, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente in California, said: ‘The results of this study support the findings from the pre-licensure clinical trials, providing reassurance that the herpes zoster vaccine is generally safe and well tolerated with a low increased risk of inflammatory or allergic reactions.'

Dr Douglas Fleming, a retired GP and a member of the JCVI, said: ‘Shingles is a painful and unpleasant illness, particularly in people over 65 years of age.
A vaccine to prevent it is needed.

‘This study has shown that excepting some relatively
minor adverse effects, the vaccine was not associated with
an increased risk of serious adverse events and that is welcome.'



Shingles vaccine cleared as safe


Relative risk of adverse events 42 days after herpes zoster vaccine compared with before vaccination




Acute MI




Heart failure

Source: J Intern Med 2012;271:


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