Shingles vaccine on the way for older New Zealanders

  • Jonathan Coleman

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has welcomed news that Pharmac is on track to fund the vaccine for shingles (herpes zoster), as early as April 2018.

“The introduction of a free shingles vaccine for over 65’s would have a significant impact on reducing the harm caused by this common disease,” says Dr Coleman.

“Shingles is an infection that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Symptoms include burning, sharp pain, tingling or numbness of the skin, a rash, a fever, chills, a headache and an upset stomach.

“Pharmac has completed the formal assessment of the funding application for the shingles vaccine. It found that the vaccine should be made available for people aged 65, with a two-year catch-up programme provided for those between 65 and 80 years of age.

“Between the ages of 65-80, there are 600,000 people who would all be eligible for the funded vaccine through the catch-up programme.

“Pharmac has issued a formal consultation for the vaccine and the feedback received from this will inform its decision-making.

“Once consultation is carried out, a decision on the funding of the vaccine will be made. The vaccine would be available free of charge from primary care practices.

“Vaccines take a number of months to manufacture and are made to order. In terms of timing, the introduction of any new vaccine needs careful planning in order to maximise uptake, educate vaccinators and minimise costs to the health system.

“The vaccine could be available as early as the influenza season commencing around April 2018.”

The shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine has been available for private purchase in New Zealand and has a long safety record internationally.