Sanofi Pasteur MSD's shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine has been cleared for continued use in the UK's national immunisation programme for at least the next two years, following an evaluation of the vaccine's clinical and cost effectiveness.

Shingles is a viral infection of the nerve cells that develops as a result of a reactivation of varicella zoster virus, which is also responsible to chickenpox. Once a person has recovered from chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when the immune system is weakened. Increasing age, immunosuppressant therapy or HIV infection are all thought to increase the risk of developing the disease.

An estimated 50,000 cases of shingles occur in people 70 years and above each year in England and Wales, of which around 1,400 cases require hospitalisation.

According to Public Health England, a one dose schedule of Zostavax was assessed in clinical trials using 17,775 adults aged 70 years and over, which shoed that the vaccine cut the incidence of shingles by 38 percent and boosted immunity for at least five years.

Also, for those immunised with Zostavax but who later developed shingles, burden of illness was reduced by 55 percent, and significantly reduced the incidence of post-herpatic neuralgia - a persistent nerve pain that occurs at the site of a previous attack of shingles - by 66.8 percent.

The UK's national immunisation programme was introduced in September 2013 to help protect people aged 70 to 79 years from the condition and its complication, after an assessment by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) of its health and economic benefits.

However, Sanofi Pasteur MSD says while implementation of the programme has been successful overall, regional discrepancies still remain; by the end of March 2016, just under half of eligible 70 and 78 year olds had been vaccinated, but uptake across England varies, from 39.1 percent in Essex to 51.6 percent in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral for the routine 70 year old cohort.

"We are committed to working with healthcare professionals to ensure completion of the programme within the remaining eligible cohorts," noted Stephan Loose, director, External Affairs, Sanofi Pasteur MSD.