13 Mar 2012

Limited supply of shingles vaccine available soon

10:30 am on 13 March 2012

People over 60 are being urged to consider paying for a vaccine against shingles, which will be available soon on a limited basis.

The Zostavax vaccine is not normally available outside the United States, but its manufacturer, Merck Sharp and Dohme, says it has 3800 doses that were surplus in the US.

Its use has been licensed in this country for those aged over 50, but it is not state-funded, so those who want it will have to pay. It will be offered through family doctors at a cost of about $200 a person.

A Lower Hutt GP, Stewart Reid, says older people would find it well worth having the vaccination.

Dr Reid says shingles - a viral disease that causes a painful skin rash - is worse the older people are, and can be followed by long-lasting nerve pain.

He says the vaccine is safe and effective.

The head of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, Nikki Turner, says most New Zealanders will have had chickenpox at some stage, so they are potentially at risk of getting shingles.

She also says that the risk increases with age, and that older people are more likely to be left with pain.