Shingles vaccine

NHS set to offer shingles vaccine to nearly one million more people

Nearly a million more people will have the opportunity to get vaccinated against shingles this autumn, NHS England has announced.

The changes, which account for 900,000 people, mean that those who are severely immunocompromised and over the age of 50 will be eligible for two doses of the shingles vaccine.

By the start of September, those reaching ages 65 and 70 will also be able to get the jab after their birthdays, with the health service planning to expand this cohort to include those 60 and over by September 2028.

The news comes off the back of a recommendation from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation which cited clinical trial data that showed the shingles vaccine was safe and highly effective for this group of people, and thus should be made more widely available.

                                                                     Video credit: Canva

Steve Russell, who is NHS England’s national director of vaccinations and screening, said: “With a quarter of people getting shingles in their lifetime, and with it being one of the few conditions that cannot achieve herd immunity, the expansion of the programme will provide peace of mind to hundreds of thousands and save lives.”

While not contagious, shingles develops in people who have previously been infected with chickenpox, with the dormant virus sometimes being triggered by certain medicines, illness or stress.

Shingles can occur at any time but risk often scales with old age and weakened immune systems.

Severe cases can result in hearing loss, blindness, nerve pain and potentially death, however the vaccine significantly reduces the likelihood of people developing shingles and suffering from particularly extreme symptoms.

The UK Health Security Agency’s immunisation director, Dr Mary Ramsay, added: “Two doses of vaccine are highly effective in reducing your risk of getting shingles, or if you do develop shingles, reduce the severity of your symptoms.

“I strongly urge all those eligible to protect themselves by taking up the offer of a vaccine when they are contacted by their GP.”

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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