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Shingles vaccination programme a step closer

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

22nd January 2013 - A shingles vaccination programme for older adults is a step closer, after the Department of Health signed a deal with a vaccine supplier.

Government health advisers backed shingles vaccination in 2010, but it has been delayed while contracts were put in place to supply enough doses.

Zostavax vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur MSD is expected to be offered to eligible older adults during routine visits to their GP or at the same time as the seasonal flu jab. However, details are still to be finalised.

Until the NHS plans are announced, the vaccine remains available to older people at risk of the condition on private prescription.

Shingles and chickenpox

Shingles is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Shingles infects nerves and the skin around them causing a painful rash which develops into itchy blisters. The NHS estimates that around three in every 1,000 people a year in the UK get shingles.

Shingles can affect people of any age, but is more common in over 50s. Complications from shingles are also more common in people with weakened immune systems and elderly people.

Details to be announced

In an emailed statement, a Department of Health spokesperson says: "Our independent vaccination experts recommended in 2010 that we vaccinate people aged 70 to 79 against shingles if we could get a vaccine at a cost effective price. Shingles is more severe in older people and they are more at risk of the disease. We have now secured adequate supplies of vaccine at a cost effective price and will announce more details about a vaccination programme in the coming months."

The news has been welcomed by the Shingles Support Society's director Marian Nicholson. She tells us by email: "The Shingles Support Society is delighted that the vaccination to prevent shingles will be provided to people in their 70s. Not only is shingles itself a painful condition, but the potential for long-term pain increases as people get older.

"The vaccine has proved itself over the seven years that it has been used in other countries: it prevents half the cases and lessens pain-levels in two thirds of the rest."

This article was updated after it was first published to include reaction from the Shingles Support Society.

Reviewed on January 22, 2013

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