Philippines approves GSK anti-shingles vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a vaccine for the prevention of shingles, a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, biopharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced on Thursday.

The GSK shingles vaccine is administered intramuscularly in two doses and is intended for the prevention of shingles in adults aged 50 and above, as well as those aged 18 and above with immunocompromised conditions, according to the company.

“Shingles is a disease that can cause excruciating pain and is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus,” Giovell P. Barangan, GSK Philippines medical director, said in an e-mailed statement.

“As people age, the cells in the immune system lose the ability to mount a strong and effective response to infection, increasing the risk of developing shingles,” GSK Philippines said, citing a study from the British Journal of General Practice.

A paper from the BMC Public Health journal noted that shingles typically presents as an unbearably painful, isolated rash and can also lead to long-lasting nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia.

A study on the long-term protection provided by the vaccine, published in the Infectious Diseases journal, showed that the vaccine maintains an 89% efficacy rate at 9.6 years post-vaccination, one month after the second dose.

The vaccine was initially approved in the United States and Canada in 2017 for shingles prevention among those aged 50 and older, and it has since been adopted by over 40 other countries.

In December 2022, the FDA issued a public health warning against the unauthorized sale of the Shingrix shingles vaccine from GSK Philippines, which was under evaluation at the time.

The Quezon City government allocated P20 million to fund its free shingles vaccine program for senior citizens in 2018, using Zostavax, according to the Philippine News Agency.

However, the sale and use of Zostavax in the United States were discontinued as of November 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has noted that GSK’s Shingrix recombinant zoster vaccine is the preferred shingles vaccine. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola