Shingrix arrives on Australian shores

By Megan Brodie 3 years ago | In Companies, Vaccines
  • 3 years ago

8 June 2021

GSK’s shingles vaccines SHINGRIX has arrived in Australia but will not be reimbursed. Instead, the vaccine will be available through GPs for adults aged 50 years and older.

Reactivation of the chicken pox virus in adulthood, shingles can affect up to one in three people at some stage in their lives, with the risk increasing with age. In Australia, around 120,000 new cases of shingles occur each year.

GSK Australia Vaccines Medical Director Co Luu said bringing innovative medicines and vaccines to Australia is a core focus.

“GSK Australia is very proud to make this shingles vaccine available in Australia,” he said. “GSK has been at the heart of research into how the immune system declines as we age, and we know that more prevention options are needed.

“We are thrilled that with the supply of Shingrix into Australia, we will be able to help protect more Australians from shingles. GSK is committed to bringing innovative solutions to the people who need them most, and today’s announcement is evidence of that.”

A recombinant, adjuvanted vaccine requiring two doses, Shingrix reduced the risk of developing shingles by 97.2 per cent in people 50 years and older, compared with 51 per cent for the rival ZOSTAVAX vaccine in people 60 years and older. For people over 80, Zostavax is only 18 per cent effective.

GSK attempted to have Shingrix funded through the National Immunisation Program (NIP), submitting it to the PBAC in November 2018. The submission was rejected. At the time, GSK described its vaccine as “a significant scientific advancement in the field of vaccinology, demonstrating unprecedented efficacy against shingles”.

“GSK strongly believes it is important that the full value of vaccination at a societal level be recognised through the evaluation process. This is a topic where more dialogue will be required with the PBAC,” the company said at the time, although it never returned.

Older Zostavax gets boxed warning

Seqirus’ ageing shingles vaccine ZOSTAVAX, registered in Australia 16 years ago, was hit with a new warning last week. The TGA has called on Seqirus to implement a range of new measures to warn patients of risks associated with its vaccine, including that it can cause infection or even death.

“Tell your doctor if you are taking medicines that may weaken your immune system including high-dose corticosteroids or cancer medicines, or other treatment,” the warning states. “If you become unwell after vaccination, you should seek medical attention and tell your doctor that you have recently received Zostavax.”

The Product Information (PI) has also been updated with a ‘boxed’ warning advising a “varicella zoster virus (VZV) infection with vaccine (Oka) strain can occur in patients following administration of the live-attenuated Zostavax vaccine”.

“There have been fatal reports of disseminated vaccine-related VZV infection in Australia, including in patients on low dose immunosuppressive medication,” the warning states, noting such cases are rare. “The risk increases with the degree of immunosuppression.”

Doctors are advised to pre-screen patients and perform a risk-based assessment before administering Zostavax. Common medications such as prednisone can suppress the immune system.

Seqirus has been required by the regulator to write to healthcare practitioners warning of these risks and to send fridge stickers and patient alert cards.

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