Over seventies advised to ask GP about shingles vaccine

Health
Health

Patients over 70 are being advised to ask their GP if they are eligible for a vaccine to prevent shingles, a common, painful skin disease.

The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection. Unlike the flu jab, you’ll only need to have the vaccination once and you can have it at any time of the year.

The shingles vaccine is expected to reduce your risk of getting shingles. If you are unlucky enough to go on to have the disease, your symptoms may be milder and the illness shorter.

Shingles can be very painful and uncomfortable. Some people are left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed. And shingles is fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop it.

It’s fine to have the shingles vaccine if you’ve already had shingles. The shingles vaccine works very well in people who have had shingles before and it will boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.

Said Dr Vindi Bhandal, chairman of South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group: “Shingles is a very debilitating condition and this vaccine will help to reduce the risk of getting it. I would recommend anyone who falls within the age range to ask about the availability at their practice when they book for their seasonal flu vaccination.”

Since September 1, 2015 the shingles vaccine is routinely available to people aged 70 and 78. You become eligible for the vaccine on the first day of September 2015 after you’ve turned 70 or 78 and remain so until the last day of August 2016.

In addition, anyone who was eligible for immunisation in the first two years of the programme but has not yet been vaccinated against shingles remains eligible until their 80th birthday. This includes people aged 71 and 72 on September 1 2015 and people aged 79.

You can have the shingles vaccination at any time of year, though many people will find it convenient to have it at the same time as their annual flu vaccination.

The shingles vaccine is given as an injection into the upper arm and is expected to protect those vaccinated for at least five years and probably longer.

* Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in people who have previously had chickenpox.

* It begins with a burning sensation in the skin, followed by a rash of very painful fluid-filled blisters that can then burst and turn into sores before healing. Often an area on just one side of the body is affected, usually the chest but sometimes the head, face and eye.

* People tend to get shingles more often as they get older, especially over the age of 70. And the older you are, the worse it can be. The shingles rash can be extremely painful, such that sufferers can’t even bear the feeling of their clothes touching the affected skin.

* The pain of shingles can also linger long after the rash has disappeared, even for many years.