HEALTH AND CARE: Pensioners urged to have shingles vaccine

The vaccine can help prevent people from developing shingles in old age
The vaccine can help prevent people from developing shingles in old age

People in their 70s are being urged to protect themselves against shingles with a free vaccine.

By the end of July, just over half of all eligible older patients in Sussex had been vaccinated against shingles but the NHS is encouraging everyone who is offered the vaccine to take it up.

Local GP practices are offering the vaccination as part of the NHS shingles immunisation campaign for 2017/18, which began on September 1.

Doctors are calling for everyone who is eligible to make sure they have the jab.

As people get older their immune system naturally weakens which is why those aged 70 and over are more likely to get shingles.

Shingles can be very painful and debilitating and lead to health problems long after the initial rash has disappeared.

It can also be fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop it.

It is a common misconception that if you have had chickenpox you are immune to the virus for life, but it actually lies dormant in the nervous system and can reactivate when the immune system is weakened.

Around nine in every ten people have had chickenpox and are therefore at potential risk of developing shingles in old age.

There is no cure for shingles, but the vaccine can help prevent people from developing shingles in old age.

Doctors are encouraging all patients who are eligible to take up the offer from their GP surgery and get vaccinated against the virus.

Shingles is a very itchy, painful, burning group of blisters caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox (varicella-zoster) virus.

The rash commonly affects one area of the body, often the chest, and can last up to four weeks.

However for some people, pain can persist for several months, or even years, after the rash has disappeared.

You are eligible for the shingles vaccine if you are aged 70 or 78 years old.

In addition, anyone who was eligible for immunisation in the previous three years of the programme but missed out on their shingles vaccination remains eligible until their 80th birthday.

This includes:

• People in their 70s who were born after September 1, 1942.

• People who are 79 years old.

The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection into the upper arm.

Unlike the flu jab, you only need to have the vaccine once.

If you haven’t had your jab but you are eligible, you can ask to have the shingles vaccine alongside the flu vaccine.

Find out more about shingles on NHS Choices, along with detailed information about eligibility for the shingles vaccine.

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