From 1 November, older Australians will have free access to the best protection against shingles through one of the most comprehensive and widely available vaccination programs in the world.

The Albanese Government is investing $826.8 million to provide almost 5 million people who are at risk of severe disease from shingles with a free Shingrix vaccine under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

This includes everyone aged 65 years and over, First Nations people 50 years and over, and immunocompromised people 18 years and over at high risk of herpes zoster infection.

“This investment will ensure nearly five million Australians can get free protection from shingles and the very painful nerve damage that it causes,” Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler said.

Shingrix provides around 10 years of protection and usually costs up to $560.

Praising the initiative, Member for Werriwa  Anne Stanley MP said, “23,016 in Werriwa are going to get free access to the best shingles protection because of this investment.”

Shingrix is the first non-live vaccine to be listed on the NIP for the prevention of shingles and PHN. Non-live vaccines do not contain live viruses so they cannot replicate in the body and do not cause disease, even in people with weakened immune systems.

Shingles is caused by reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox and presents as a painful blistering rash on one side of the face or body that lasts 10-15 days.

1 in 5 people with shingles will develop severe nerve pain known as post-herpetic neuralgia that can last months or even years. In some cases, it may be permanent.

“The pain of shingles is often described by our members as the worst they have ever experienced,” said Giulia Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Painaustralia.

“Often these people are already in pain due to other health issues, and if they develop ongoing complications, their life can be very uncomfortable.”

The risk of developing shingles increases with age and people aged 65 years and over are at highest risk of complications like post-herpetic neuralgia.

“Those 18 years of age and over who are immunocompromised, as well as people aged 65 or older have greater potential to develop shingles and related complications, I encourage those who fall into the groups for this NIP listing to speak with their healthcare professional about their risk of shingles and how they can protect themselves,” Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, and infectious diseases expert, Robert Booy said.

Shingrix will replace Zostavax on the NIP from 1 November 2023, following advice from the independent medicines experts at the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).