Shingles vaccination programme launched

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The Public Health Agency (PHA) has launched the second year of the shingles vaccination programme, available from 1 October 2014, for all people aged 70 and a catch-up programme for people aged 78 and 79 years old to help protect against the common and painful skin disease and its complications.

Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you recover from chickenpox, some of the virus remains inactive in the body and nervous system. It can then reactivate later in life when your immune system is weakened. About a quarter of adults will get shingles at some point in their life.

“For most people shingles can be a mild infection with good recovery. But it can be very painful and uncomfortable and tends to affect people more commonly as they get older. The older people are, the worse it can be, with some people left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed.

“It is estimated that the vaccination programme will prevent nearly 40% of the hundreds of cases seen every year in Northern Ireland in people over 70 and reduce the severity of the symptoms for those who do develop the condition.”

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “Shingles is a nasty illness that causes a painful rash that can last for many weeks or months, and in some cases the effects go on for years. This vaccination programme will help protect those at risk from shingles.

“I would encourage all eligible individuals to help give themselves the best available protection against shingles and avail of this vaccine when it is offered by their GP.”

Who gets the vaccine

Eligibility for the vaccine is determined by a person’s age on 1 September 2014. The vaccine will be offered routinely to people aged 70 years on the 1 September. This year that will be those born between 2 September 1943 and 1 September 1944, inclusive, and as part of a catch-up programme those aged 78 and 79 years on the 1 September (those born between 2 September 1934 and 1 September 1936, inclusive).

The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection in the upper arm, and unlike the flu vaccine you only need to have it once.