New Zealand receives shingles vaccine shipment

New Zealand celebrated the receipt of the ZOSTAVAX shingles vaccine on Monday, which it hopes will offer protection to many against an often painful and debilitating infection.

ZOSTAVAX is in short supply due to its high demand and complex manufacturing process. New Zealand had to wait until the United Kingdom added the vaccine to its National Immunisation Programme to place its order.

"This shipment launches (the Ministry of Social Development's) long-term program for ZOSTAVAX," Merck Sharp & Dohme pharmaceuticals New Zealand Director Paul Smith said. "We are taking orders now and anticipate being able to meet the expected demand."

All persons who have been infected with chicken pox are at risk of developing shingles, which can cause chronic, debilitating pain in its victims. The risk of disease increases significantly after 50 years of age. Symptoms of shingles can plague the victim for years following infection.

"Chronic pain is the most common complication of shingles and this can last for months, even years," Smith said. "Consequently, the impact on shingles sufferers can be devastating, affecting all aspects of their home and work lives. The introduction of this vaccine will now provide a new option to help prevent this debilitating disease."

ZOSTAVAX will now be offered in New Zealand as a non-funded prescription medication to individuals 50 years of age or older.