Vaccine for shingles prevention
Shingles affects one in three people across the Asia-Pacific region and can cause lasting pain and other complications.
There is a new vaccine in Singapore called Shingrix by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) that protects those 50 years and above against shingles (herpes zoster). It was recently expanded to include adults 18 years and over who are at increased risk of shingles due to immunodeficiency or immunosuppression caused by known disease or therapy.
The vaccine is a non-live, recombinant subunit adjuvanted vaccine, given intramuscularly in two doses, two to six months apart. For those who are immunodeficient, immunosuppressed or likely to become immunosuppressed due to known disease or therapy, and whom would benefit from a shorter vaccination schedule, the second dose can be given one to two months after the initial dose.
Shingles is triggered by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Nearly all adults over 50 have the shingles virus dormant in their nervous system, waiting to reactivate with advancing age. As one’s immunity system declines with age, the risk and severity of shingles increases, putting older adults in Singapore at a higher risk of shingles and its complications.
Shingles affects one in three people across the Asia-Pacific region. It can cause lasting pain and other complications which can severely impact the quality of people’s lives, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), that can result in persistent nerve pain for months or years after.
Dr Asok Kurup, an infectious disease physician at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said, “Shingles can be a very painful rash. Many patients describe the pain as a burning, shooting or stabbing sensation. Some suffer from serious complications and chronic pain for months. If you’ve had chickenpox, the virus that causes shingles is already inside your body, which means it can reactivate anytime. Even the healthiest lifestyle cannot stop your immune system from declining as you age.”
He concluded, “As doctors we never like to see our patients in pain. Shingles can be difficult to treat once the symptoms break out, so vaccination can play an important role in helping to reduce the burden of this painful disease.”
Shingrix is said to provide over 90-percent protection against shingles across all age groups over 50, with “robust and sustained efficacy” for at least seven years. The vaccine is contraindicated in anyone who is allergic (hypersensitive) to the active substances or to any component of the vaccine. The company also shared the occurrence of syncope (fainting) which could occur following or before any vaccination as a psychogenic response to the needle injection.
It also shared that in a post-marketing observational study in individuals aged 65 years and over, an increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (estimated three excess cases per million doses administered) was observed during the 42 days following the vaccination. Available information is insufficient to determine a causal relationship with Shingrix. Most frequently reported adverse reactions to the vaccine including pain at the injection site, myalgia (pain in a muscle or group of muscles), fatigue, headache, chills, fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, and malaise.
** To find out more about Shingrix and shingles, go to: www.shingrix.com.
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/CDC)