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Papers of the Week

2020 May 18

Hum Vaccin Immunother

Early impact of the Australian national shingles vaccination program with the herpes zoster live attenuated vaccine.


Litt J, Booy R, Bourke D, Dwyer DE, Leeb A, McCloud P, Stein AN, Woodward M, Cunningham AL
Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2020 May 18:1-9.
PMID: 32420793.


Herpes zoster (shingles) is a painful condition resulting from reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus (VZV). The Australian National Shingles Vaccination Program (commenced November 2016) provides free herpes zoster vaccination for eligible adults aged 70 years, with a 5-year catch-up program (until October 2021) for adults aged 71-79 years. Patterns and impact of the program were evaluated by analysis of vaccine distribution and delivery data and specific antiviral prescription data from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. During the first 2 years, uptake of funded live attenuated shingles vaccine ZOSTAVAX® (Zoster Virus Vaccine Live; ZVL) was high across the ongoing and catch-up programs. Before program implementation (2006-2016), herpes zoster coded antiviral prescription rates increased by 2.2% per year (95% CI: 1.5, 2.9) in the 70-79 years age group. In the two years since program launch, herpes zoster antiviral prescription rates declined substantially in this age group, by an average of 13.6% per year (95% CI: 1.5, 24.2). These results indicate that the National Shingles Vaccination Program has been highly successful in vaccinating a considerable proportion of Australian adults aged 70-79 years against herpes zoster and suggest that vaccine uptake was associated with decreased incidence of herpes zoster.