Shingles Vaccine, Shingrix, Approved in Japan and Europe

Herpes zoster commonly known as shingles, is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox

older woman

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and the European Commission has approved Shingrix for the prevention of shingles, also known as herpes zoster, for adults aged 50 years or older.

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Shingles affects approximately 1.7 million Europeans annually, and approximately 600,000 new cases are reported in Japan each year.

Older adults and those with conditions that compromise the immune system have the greatest risk of developing shingles.

More than 99 percent of those over 50 years old are infected with VZV and, it is estimated that around one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime.

Additionally, these approvals apply for post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is the most common complication of shingles, occurring in up to 30 percent of all shingles cases.

A person can experience PHN from 3 months to several years.

Dr. Thomas Breuer, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of GSK Vaccines, said: “The risk and severity of shingles increases with age as the immune system loses the ability to mount a strong and effective response to infection.”

Shingrix, produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a non-live, recombinant subunit adjuvanted vaccine given intramuscularly in two doses.

Shingrix is the first approved shingles vaccine to combine a non-live antigen, to trigger a targeted immune response, with a specifically designed adjuvant to generate a strong and sustained immune response.

This vaccine combines an antigen, glycoprotein E, and an adjuvant system, AS01B, intended to generate a strong and long-lasting immune response that can help overcome the decline in immunity that occurs as people age.

Shingrix is to be given intramuscularly in two doses.

Shingrix was approved in the US and Canada in October 2017.

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Recently, a separate research study answered the question ‘why is this new Shingles vaccine 90 percent effective for all age groups.

"Our research shows that the ‘Shingrix’ vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce more antibodies and it generates a 24-fold increase in CD4 T-cells,” said Professor Tony Cunningham from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

“This is 12 times higher than the other less effective shingles vaccines.”

"The body has two types of immunity: protein antibodies and white blood cells known as T cells. As the virus circulates around the body, antibodies block it from entering cells.

But when the shingles virus does get into cells, your T cells try to kill those infected cells.” said Cunningham.

Moreover, Professor Cunningham believes Shingrix will deliver protection much longer than 4 years if a second dose is administered.

Safety Information for Shingrix includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • You should not receive Shingrix if you are allergic to any of its ingredients or had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of Shingrix.
  • The most common side effects are pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, muscle pain, tiredness, headache, shivering, fever, and upset stomach.
  • Vaccination with Shingrix may not protect all individuals.
  • Shingrix is not indicated for the prevention of chickenpox.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides current vaccine information.

Vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.

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