A vaccine to prevent shingles, a common, painful skin disease is now available on the NHS to people in their 70s. If you are eligible for a vaccine, we will write and inform you.
The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection. Unlike the flu jab, you'll only need to have the vaccination once.
The 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.
What is Shingles?
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.
Who Can Have The Shingles Vaccination?
Shingles vaccination is offered routinely as part of the NHS vaccination programme.
A national shingles immunisation programme has been introduced by the Department of Health and we are able to invite eligible patients for this vaccination.
The programme is being phased in over the next few years and patients eligible for the vaccination this year are those born between the following dates:
2nd September 1942 to 1st September 1945 inclusive (i.e. aged 70, 71 or 72 on 1st September 2015)
2nd September 1935 to 1st September 1937 inclusive (i.e. aged 78 or 79 on 1st September 2015)
Patients in these age groups should be vaccinated before 31st August 2016: after that date we may not be able to vaccinate you.
About 1 in 4 adults could develop shingles in their lifetime. The immune system weakens with age, and so the chance of developing shingles increases. It is most common and tends to be more severe in people aged over 70 years. Although most people recover, some may experience long-term effects, such as long-term nerve pain known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This can be a severe, unpleasant, long-term nerve pain which can last for weeks, months or in a few people, years. The older you are the more likely you are to have long-lasting nerve pain. Other complications are scarring, skin infections, decreased vision or rarely hearing loss.
If you would like to have the shingles vaccination, please contact the surgery and make an appointment with one of our practice nurses.
Read more about who can have the shingles vaccine.
How Does The Shingles Vaccine Work?
Very occasionally, people have developed a chickenpox-like illness following shingles vaccination (fewer than 1 in 10,000 individuals).
How Safe Is The Shingles Vaccine?
There is lots of evidence showing that the new shingles vaccine is very safe. It's already been used in several countries, including the US and Canada, and no safety concerns have been raised. The vaccine also has few side effects. Read more about shingles vaccine side effects.
How Is Shingles Spread?
You don't "catch" shingles – it comes on when there's a reawakening of chickenpox virus that's already in your body. The virus can be reactivated because of advancing age, medication, illness or stress and so on.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. It's estimated that around one in five people who have had chickenpox go on to develop shingles.
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. This lingering pain is called Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN).
Read more about the complications of shingles.
Read the answers to some of the common questions about the shingles vaccine.