GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Singapore announced that a new vaccine to help protect against shingles, Shingrix, is now available in Singapore. Shingrix is a non-live, recombinant subunit adjuvanted vaccine, given intramuscularly in two doses, for the prevention of shingles (herpes zoster). The vaccine was initially approved for adults aged 50 years and over, with the indication expanded recently to adults aged 18 years and over who are at increased risk of shingles due to immunodeficiency or immunosuppression caused by known disease or therapy.
Shingles is triggered by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Nearly all adults over 50 have the shingles virus dormant in their nervous system, waiting to reactivate with advancing age. As one’s immunity system declines with age, the risk and severity of shingles increases, putting older adults in Singapore at a higher risk of shingles and its complications.
Shingles affects 1 in 3 people across the Asia-Pacific region. It can cause lasting pain and other complications which can severely impact the quality of people’s lives, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), that can result in persistent nerve pain for months or years after.
Dr. Asok Kurup, Infectious Disease Physician at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said, “Shingles can be a very painful rash. Many patients describe the pain as a burning, shooting or stabbing sensation. Some suffer from serious complications and chronic pain for months. If you’ve had chickenpox, the virus that causes shingles is already inside your body, which means it can reactivate anytime. Even the healthiest lifestyle cannot stop your immune system from declining as you age.”
He concluded, “As doctors we never like to see our patients in pain. Shingles can be difficult to treat once the symptoms break out, so vaccination can play an important role in helping to reduce the burden of this painful disease.”
“We are truly proud to make GSK’s shingles vaccine available in Singapore,” said Priya Kudva Menon, VP and General Manager, GSK Singapore. “We are pleased to be able to support healthy ageing for Singaporeans through our Vaccines portfolio and in particular, to be able to play a part in shingles prevention for the 50+ population, who are at increased risk for the shingles disease.”
Shingrix is the first approved shingles vaccine to combine a non-live antigen with a specifically designed adjuvant to trigger a targeted, strong and sustained immune response. Shingrix provides over 90% protection against shingles across all age groups over 50, with robust and sustained efficacy. It is also the first shingles vaccine indicated for use in those who are at increased risk of the disease due to immunodeficiency or immunosuppression caused by known disease or therapy.
Shingrix was initially approved by the Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) in January 2021, followed by its expanded indication for immunodeficient or immunosuppressed patients aged 18 and over in December 2021. Vaccination against shingles is also recommended in the Society of Infectious Disease (Singapore) Handbook (2020 edition).