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Shingles vaccine stocks run out again

Central stocks of shingles vaccine have run out for the second time since the national vaccination programme was launched, Public Health England has told Pulse.

PHE said there is currently no Zostavax vaccine available for ordering from the ImmForm website and supplies are unlikely to be restored until ‘later in November’ at the earliest.

The national programme to vaccinate over 70s against shingles, starting with people aged 70 and 79 in the first year, was launched in September.

But within a matter of weeks PHE placed a cap on orders of the vaccine at five doses, after problems with the manufacturing process led to delays in supplies of the vaccine to the UK.

Despite the cap, stocks ran out before the month was out and PHE moved to further restrict orders once the vaccine came available again early in October, barring practices from placing multiple orders.

Now a spokesperson has confirmed to Pulse that after further disruption in supply, ‘stocks are temporarily out, so no orders can be placed at the moment’.

In a statement, PHE said: ‘Currently PHE is subject to a temporary delay with the supply of the shingles vaccine, Zostavax into the UK. The disruption to supply will continue until normal supplies are restored by the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur MSD, likely to be later in November or December.’

Practices were originally told to vaccinate patients when they come in for seasonal flu jabs, but many patients will now need to make a second visit to have the new vaccine.

Bruce Taylor, head of vaccines and countermeasures response at PHE, said: ‘Although we are disappointed with the delay of the shingles vaccine arriving in the UK as planned, PHE is working with the manufacturer to agree remedial action and resume supplies as quickly as possible.’

‘A large quantity of vaccine has already been distributed across the UK to start the programme which began on 1 September.’

‘We do not expect this temporary delay to impact the overall programme to immunise 70 and 79 year olds. The vaccine can be administered to the two eligible cohorts at any time between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014.’

A spokesperson for Sanofi Pasteur MSD said: ‘I can confirm that normal supplies of shingles vaccine are expected to be available in November.’

‘Sanofi Pasteur MSD, as the supplier of shingles vaccine to the UK’s national shingles immunisation programme, is experiencing some delays in shipping the vaccine.’

‘The reason for this delay is that we are required to complete a number of tests before a vaccine can be distributed in the European Union. Unfortunately, we regret that this testing is taking longer than anticipated.’

The spokesperson added that shingles vaccine is ‘highly technical, complex and challenging to manufacture’ and production therefore is a lengthy process, requiring extensive quality assurance testing before being distributed.