UK First Major European Country to Run Zostavax Nationwide Shingles Vaccination Programme

Vaccine to be given to UK seniors to help protect against shingles

Lyon, 22nd January 2013 – The UK has decided to launch the first-ever national shingles immunisation campaign in Europe using the innovative Zostavax vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur MSD, the joint venture in Europe between MSD and Sanofi Pasteur.

Eligible senior members of the public will be able to receive the Zostavax vaccine during regular health visits or at the same time as their seasonal flu jab. The decision from the UK’s Department of Health follows a comprehensive assessment of the health and economic benefits of shingles vaccination.

Zostavax is the first and only vaccine available for the prevention of shingles and the long lasting nerve pain that may follow the disease, known as post herpetic neuralgia. The vaccine is licensed in Europe for immunisation of adults over 50 years* and can be given as a single injection.

Shingles is a painful and debilitating disease that affects around one in four1,2 people during their life time. Anyone who has had chickenpox (95 % of the European population3) is potentially at risk as it is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox (varicella) virus that most people get during childhood.

Shingles is typically characterised by an extremely painful rash and blisters on the skin and it can lead to serious complications such as post-herpetic neuralgia, a painful and long-lasting condition caused by damage to the nerves by the virus. The risk and severity of shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia increase with age and 2/3 of shingles cases occur in people over 50 years4.

“Until the introduction of Zostavax, there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves against this painful and debilitating disease”, said Jean-Paul Kress, President of Sanofi Pasteur MSD. “We’re very pleased that the UK Department of Health has recognized the importance of vaccinating against shingles and we look forward to more partnerships in Europe for immunisation with this truly innovative product.”

Zostavax has been used in the United States since 2006 and in Canada since 2009 and more than 11 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed since its launch.

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* immunocompetent adults (SmPC) References:

  1. Bowsher D. The lifetime occurrence of Herpes zoster and prevalence of postherpetic neuralgia: A retrospective survey in an elderly population. Eur J Pain 1999; 3 : 335-42
  2. Miller E, Marshall R, Vurdien J. Epidemiology, outcome and control of varicella zoster infection. Rev Med Microbiol 1993: 4: 222-30
  3. Johnson RW, Wasner G, Saddier P, Baron R. Postherpetic neuralgia: epidemiology, Pathophysiology and management. Expert Rev Neurother 2007;7(11):1581-95.
  4. Brisson M, Edmunds WJ, Law B, et al. Epidemiology of varicella zoster virus infection in Canada and the United Kingdom. Epidemiol Infect 2001;127(2):305-14.

About Sanofi Pasteur MSD

Sanofi Pasteur MSD is a joint venture between Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of Sanofi, and Merck, known as MSD outside the USA and Canada. Combining innovation and expertise, Sanofi Pasteur MSD is the only company in Europe dedicated exclusively to vaccines. Sanofi Pasteur MSD is able to draw on the research expertise of Sanofi Pasteur and Merck to focus on the development of new vaccines for Europe to improve the acceptability, efficacy and tolerability of vaccination.

For further information please contact:

Caroline ASHE

Senior Director External Communications Europe
Sanofi Pasteur MSD
Tel :   +33 4 37 28 4040
Mob :+33 6 33 46 1365
CAshe@spmsd.com