RA daySanofi Pasteur MSD is supporting the Department of Health’s national shingles immunisation programme in its second year, offering vaccination to people aged 70, 78 and 79 years from 1 September. 

This next cohort of eligible patients will present at GP surgeries as new research highlights the burden of post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) on patients’ quality of life, and calls for vaccination against shingles and PHN to reduce the impact on individual patients, healthcare systems and society as a whole. Patients in the Zoster Quality of Life Study (ZQOL) with a confirmed diagnosis of PHN, reported experiencing pain in the area of their shingles rash for an average of 3.5 years after the rash had cleared, and the majority of participants (59.8%) suffered from PHN for one year or more.

“We are actively supporting the national programme with patient information and other resources to help GPs and Practice Nurses to vaccinate more of these vulnerable people against shingles and PHN. The results from the Zoster Quality of Life Study highlight the potential burden of PHN, and vaccination can be an important step in helping to maintain people's quality of life.” said Richard Stubbins, Vice President of Sanofi Pasteur MSD. 

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox – a disease common in childhood.  The VZV lies dormant in the dorsal root ganglion following recovery from chickenpox and can reactivate later in life to cause shingles.  One in four people will have an episode of shingles during their life-time.

ZQOL is the first UK-wide, cross-sectional study of its kind. The findings indicate that despite the availability of various options for pain relief, PHN remains difficult to manage, with many patients still experiencing significant levels of pain for some time after first diagnosis. Previous research has shown that for one in two patients with acute shingles, there is an impact on daily activities and enjoyment of life. People with PHN can experience chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, anorexia, weight loss, and social isolation. Furthermore, PHN can impair a patient’s functional status, interfering with daily activities such as dressing, bathing, shopping, cooking, and housework.

Following the success of the programme, first launched in September 2013, a second phase of shingles immunisation begins from 1 September 2014 for those aged 70 at that date. In addition, a catch-up group of people aged 78 and 79 years at that date will also be eligible for shingles vaccination. The UK was the first European country to provide free vaccination as part of a national immunisation programme. There has been positive uptake of the vaccine, with 60% of 70 and 58% of 79 year-olds in England, vaccinated to the end of July in the first phase of the programme. The vaccine can be given concomitantly with the seasonal flu vaccine.