Zostavax shortage due to unexpected popularity


Reports have emerged two weeks after the shingles vaccine was added to the National Immunisation Program

Zostavax is Australia’s only vaccine to protect against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia, and on 1 November was added to the National Immunisation Program for people aged 70-79.

Supplier Seqirus has confirmed that due to the vaccine’s unexpected popularity, it is temporarily experiencing a shortage that will be amended this week.

“The positive response to the program has led to a higher than expected demand for the vaccine. Within two weeks of its listing on the NIP more than 190,000 (and as many as 240,000) Australians have been immunised,” said Dr Lorna Meldrum, Vice President Commercial Operations Asia Pacific, Seqirus.

“We expect that more than one-third of 70-79 year olds will be vaccinated by Christmas,” said Dr Meldrum.

“Given the unexpected uptake of the program, Seqirus is in daily discussions with the Immunisation Group within the Department of Health and the manufacturer, Merck (MSD) to do everything possible to meet demand.  We have delivered to the October forecasts and are confident of continuing to deliver on the planned orders for November and December. We will deliver at least an extra 100,000 doses by the end of December.”

While Zostavax supplies are currently low in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, Dr Meldrum confirms that shipments will arrive from the manufacturer Merck (MSD) on Monday and Wednesday, which will soon get into the hands of GPs.

“There was an unexpected rush on the vaccine and the supplier, Seqirus, informed the Department they do not, at the moment, have sufficient reserve stocks to meet demand and that they will be rectifying the supply shortage as quickly as possible,” said a spokesperson from the Department of Health.

“The Department of Health is closely monitoring the company and its progress in supplying more vaccine as a matter of priority,” they added.

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