The French National High Council for Public Health (HCSP) has recommended routine shingles vaccination for seniors from 65 to 74 years of age. In addition, during the first year a catch-up will be proposed to 75-79 year-olds.
The recommendation acknowledges the heavy burden of shingles and its often-associated condition, long-lasting pain called post-herpetic neuralgia. The High Council recognizes the significant scientific evidence that vaccination is the only health option that prevents both incidence and severity of disease. There is no satisfactory preventive nor therapeutic alternative for managing shingles and its complications. The report also underlines the vaccine's good safety profile and cost-effectiveness.
Zostavax(R) is the first and only vaccine available for the prevention of shingles and post herpetic neuralgia. The vaccine is licensed in Europe for immunisation of adults over 50 years old and can be given as a single injection.
"We welcome the High Council's recommendation and look forward to more decisions similar to this one across Europe," notes Dr Jean-Paul Kress, President of Sanofi Pasteur MSD. "We are very pleased that seniors in France will soon have access to Zostavax(R). No senior should suffer the pain and potential complications of shingles, so we are proud to be a part of this solution."
One in four people will develop shingles during their lifetime,. Anyone who has had chickenpox (95% of the European population) is potentially at risk as shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox (varicella) virus that most people get during childhood and stay dormant in the body. Age is clearly the main risk factor, and both shingles incidence and severity increases sharply after the age of 50, with two third of shingles cases occurring in people over 50 years.
Shingles is a painful and debilitating disease which is typically characterized by a painful rash and blisters on the skin. It can lead to serious complications such as post-herpetic neuralgia, a painful and long-lasting condition caused by nerve damage the virus inflicts. Shingles management can be particularly challenging when it occurs in elderly.
France now becomes the second European country after the UK to recommend routine use of Zostavax(R). The vaccine has been used in the United States since 2006 and more than 15 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed.