Based on recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), those that can get the vaccine is being expanded to younger age groups so individuals, particularly those with a weakened immune system, can be protected at an earlier age to prevent more shingles cases. It means hundreds of thousands more people in England will be able to get protected against shingles each year.
The vaccine that is used in the programme is also changing. All newly eligible individuals will be offered two doses of the non-live vaccine Shingrix instead of the live vaccine Zostavax.
Shingles is an infection that causes a very painful and uncomfortable rash. Usually, you get the shingles rash on your chest and stomach, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face and eyes. Some people are left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed. Shingles can also be fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop it.
Over recent years, the uptake of the shingles vaccinations has fallen nationally, with rates of those eligible getting the vaccine in Greater Manchester dropping to 27% in 2021/22 compared to 58.7% in 2013/14 – a decline of 31.7%. NHS Greater Manchester is taking the opportunity to not only inform people of the changes to the vaccination programme, but as a fresh reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated if you are eligible.
Dr Helen Wall, Clinical Director for Population Health, NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, said: “The seriousness and severity of shingles should not be overlooked – around one in four will develop shingles and the risk increases with age. As well as the resulting rash, which is painful and itchy, shingles can go on to cause further complications. These can include blindness, hearing loss and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) which is a stabbing nerve pain that can last for years without an effective treatment and lead to hospitalisation. After the age of 50 years, about 20% of patients with shingles will develop PHN.
“Having the vaccination if you are eligible is really important. It can prevent you from getting shingles or reduce the severity of the symptoms if you do get it.
“From 1 September 2023, your GP practice should invite you for the shingles vaccination as you turn 65 or 70 or if you are aged 50+ and have a weakened immune system. If they don’t you can make an appointment yourself by contacting your GP.”