Summary of decision: shingles vaccine for some immunocompromised people

Update Medicines

Pharmac is widening access to the shingles vaccine for some immunocompromised people through a multiproduct agreement with GlaxoSmithKline New Zealand (GSK).

How we've come to this decision

Pharmac has reached an agreement with the supplier, GSK, to fund three treatments and widen access to another treatment and a vaccine. As part of this agreement there are contractual changes to other medicines.

As Pharmac works within a fixed budget, negotiations like these with suppliers help us make more medicines available to more New Zealanders. 

Shingles vaccine for some immunocompromised people 

Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is a painful blistering rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has previously had chickenpox may later develop shingles from reactivation of the virus later in life. Shingles is more common and more severe in people with poor immunity and the elderly. The shingles vaccine is currently funded for people who are 65 years old. 

From 1 July 2024 access to the recombinant varicella zoster virus vaccine (branded as Shingrix) for the prevention of shingles will be widened to include the following immunocompromised people aged 18 years or older:

  • People who are pre- and post- haematopoietic stem cell transplant or cellular therapy
  • People who are pre- or post- a solid organ transplant
  • People with haematological malignancies
  • People living with poorly controlled HIV infection
  • People who are planned to or are receiving disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for:
    • polymyalgia rheumatica 
    • systemic lupus erythematosus
    • rheumatoid arthritis
  • People with end stage kidney disease (CKD 4 or 5)
  • People with primary immunodeficiency

There will be no other changes to age eligibility criteria for Shingrix at this time, meaning that it will remain funded for all other people aged 65 years. 

One in every three people can expect to suffer at least one attack of shingles in their lifetime. 

Around 15,000 immunocompromised people will benefit from the shingles vaccine in the first two years of funding, and another 2000 people each year after this.

Background on the shingles vaccine

What we heard during the consultation

We also heard that people would like eligibility for shingles vaccine to be widened further to include a wide range of immunocompromised people. These included people with a range of conditions which require immunosuppressive medicine.

We’ve made some changes to the eligibility criteria following clinical advice to clarify that people are eligible if they are pre and post haematopoietic stem cell transplant or cellular therapy.

What we will explore in the future

In the consultation feedback we heard that people would like us to look at widening the immunocompromised criteria further. We sought advice our Immunisation Advisory Committee in March and will use this to inform future decisions. The records of this meeting will be available in the coming months. 

We understand there is public interest in the shingles vaccine. We have several funding applications that we’re currently considering for this. A number of these are on our Options for Investment list. This means we would like to fund them, subject to budget availability:

We are also seeking clinical advice or assessing other applications: