Herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine (Zostavax®) is a live attenuated vaccine licensed for prevention of shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia in adults 50 years and over.
Although the herpes zoster vaccine has been added to the drug tariff it is currently not included in the national immunisation programme. Discussions are ongoing in the UK to secure the vaccine at a cost effective price and incorporate it into the national programme. At this point a starting date for such a nationally funded programme in Scotland is unknown.
The 2012 JCVI position statement
states:"Based on the evidence, a universal herpes zoster vaccination programme for adults aged 70 years up to and including 79 years is recommended provided that a licensed vaccine is available at a cost effective price."
A JCVI recommendation is not the same as UK policy. Until the vaccine is included in the national immunisation programme it is not UK policy to vaccinate against herpes zoster.
The vaccine costs approximately £100 and wide scale prescribing at this stage would have a considerable impact on prescribing budgets, which do not include funding for this vaccine.
Public Health recommend prescribers comply with current UK vaccination policy as per the Green Book and only depart from this where the specific clinical needs of a patient make this justifiable.
Advice on treatment of herpes zoster infection can be found in chapter 5 of the Lothian Joint Formulary.