NHS England South is encouraging everyone aged seventy across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight to discuss having the shingles vaccine with their GP.
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox), which is commonly caught in childhood. The virus can remain in the body for years; it’s a common disease that can cause long-lasting, severe pain.
An episode of shingles typically lasts around two to four weeks. The main symptoms are pain, followed by a rash. It is possible to have shingles more than once.
A programme of vaccination is underway, and over the next five years will increase to cover all those aged between seventy and eighty years of age. From September 2013, the shingles vaccine has been offered to those aged seventy on 1 September 2015. Anyone aged seventy eight years on 1 September 2015 is also eligible to have the vaccine.
Although the shingles vaccination is often offered at the same time as the annual flu vaccination, the shingles vaccine is available at any time throughout the year to eligible people.
Marie Mcloughlin, Consultant in Screening and Immunisation from the Wessex office of NHS England South, said: “Shingles can be a very painful and debilitating illness; the shingles vaccine is a one off vaccine that offers long term protection, and helps avoid the misery of enduring a painful condition. You only need to be vaccinated once to enjoy long term protection, and it is important to have the vaccine if you are eligible. We’re asking people to contact their GP and make an appointment to have the shingles vaccine.
“We offer the shingles vaccine routinely to individuals at the age of seventy years to boost their immunity to prevent the development of shingles and significantly reduce the incidence of post herpetic neuralgia – persistent nerve pain that can occur at the site of a previous attack of shingles”.
Since the introduction of the shingles vaccine there has been a considerable reduction in the number of cases of this painful illness.