Sanofi Pasteur MSD have announced that a limited stock of the herpes zoster vaccine (Zostavax®), is available for the prevention of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in the UK. The vaccine is now available to those aged 50 years and over on a private basis. 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 spine following recovery from chickenpox and can be reactivated later in life to cause shingles. One in four people will have an episode of shingles during their life-time. The incidence and severity of shingles increases with age as the immune system weakens. Up to one in five cases of shingles will develop severe and long-lasting pain (PHN). Adults over the age of 50 years who want to protect themselves from shingles will be advised to talk to a healthcare professional about the vaccine and how to obtain a private prescription. Based upon their clinical judgement, GPs caring for NHS-registered patients can write a private prescription for shingles vaccine. GPs may not supply the vaccine nor charge NHS patients for either the private prescription or for administering the vaccine. Patients can expect to pay for the vaccine, plus an additional dispensing fee, to obtain the vaccine from a pharmacy. Alternatively, patients may be directed to a pharmacy or other provider for shingles vaccination. The company concluded that private provision represents the most practical way to enable people in the UK to have access to the shingles vaccine when universal distribution through the NHS is not yet possible.