Elderly Australians have embraced the subsidised shingles vaccine to the point where there’s a shortage in three states, the distributor has confirmed.
At least 190,000 people have been vaccinated since 1 November when Zostavax (Seqirus, MSD) was rolled out for 70- to 79-year-olds under the National Immunisation Program.
Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have been experiencing shortages but new stock will be distributed this week, according to Dr Lorna Meldrum, Seqirus vice-president commercial operations, Asia Pacific.
The manufacturer, Merck, is giving priority to fulfilling Australian demand, she says.
“Merck … are working to expedite further doses beyond the originally planned shipments,” Dr Meldrum says.
She says 110,000 doses were expected to arrive in Australia this week.
It’s expected about one-third of the 1.5 million Australians eligible under the NIP will be vaccinated by Christmas, whereas modelling by Seqirus and the federal health department suggested this goal would not be reached until after about eight months.
The health department says there’s been an “unexpected rush” on the vaccine, draining reserve stocks.
“The Department of Health is closely monitoring the company and its progress in supplying more vaccine as a matter of priority,” a department spokesperson says.
Meanwhile, Seqirus has put a planned TV marketing campaign on ice for fear of exacerbating the shortage.