Stop septuagenarian shingles

Shingles can strike at any time and may be particularly devastating for the elderly, so healthcare professionals are reminded that funded vaccination protection is available for those aged over 70 years.

Despite the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee’s recent rejection of an application for reimbursement related to the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, pharmacists have been advised that an alternative is funded on the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

Zostavax is a shingles vaccine that offers protection against the condition in the convenience of a single dose. It is funded for eligible 70 year-olds, with a time-limited catch-up program funded for people aged 71-79 years.

With 97 per cent of adults aged over 30 years carrying the virus that causes shingles the incidence and severity of shingles increases with age, particularly in those over 70. Healthcare professionals are reminded of the importance of protecting their 70-79 year old patients against shingles and its complications.

Worldwide, more than 45.7 million doses of Zostavax have been distributed since 2006. However, despite the success of shingles immunisation programs in many countries, with a decrease shown in shingles incidence in the funded cohorts, adult vaccination rates are still below paediatric vaccination rates, with an overall rise in cases of shingles and post herpetic neuralgia in older Australians.

Vaccination is important to protect eligible 70 to 79-year-old patients, reducing their risk of developing shingles and its associated complications, which can be serious and long lasting. These include ongoing nerve pain, permanent scarring, vision loss (if the rash occurs around the eye) and an increased risk of stroke.