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Shingles vaccine catch-up programme

22 September 2016

A ‘catch-up’ programme for the shingles vaccine has been launched, with a new group of Islanders – those born in 1937 – now eligible to receive the vaccine. The aim is to prevent the development of shingles among members of the age group who are most at risk of getting shingles and the painful complications that often accompany it.

Head of Preventive Programmes, Dr Linda Diggle, said “We are very pleased that we can now start extending the offer of shingles vaccine to more Islanders. This catch-up programme is in addition to the routine shingles vaccination programme already available to people during their 70th birthday year (currently those born in 1946).”

Dr Diggle explained “We know from evidence that shingles vaccine is most effective when given to people when they’re aged 70. It’s also effective when given to people aged 71 - 79. GPs in Jersey have already vaccinated and protected around a third of the people born in 1946 against shingles since we made the vaccine available earlier this year.

“We’re now advising GPs to offer the vaccine to people born in 1937 – those people who are 79, or will turn 79 before the end of 2016. We’ve been able to source a limited supply of shingles vaccine and it’s important that we offer protection first to the oldest age group recommended to receive the vaccine as they are at the highest risk.

“It’s not possible to offer vaccine to all ‘70-somethings’ at the same time. We’re therefore rolling out a staggered catch-up programme, starting with people born in 1937. We expect, probably in January 2017, to have vaccine available for people born in 1938 and 1939 and we’ll remind people at the point when their year of birth group becomes eligible. Over time, we’ll be aiming to extend the offer of shingles vaccine to those born in 1940 to 1945 inclusive. We ask for people’s patience and understanding as we gradually roll this vaccine programme out.

“Unfortunately, the vaccine is not recommended for people in their 80s, as the vaccine is less effective when given at that age.”

Phased programme

Dr Diggle said that the catch-up vaccine programme was being phased over several years according to frequency and severity of disease. With evidence showing that those in their late 70s are more likely to get shingles and to have a more severe illness than those in their early 70s, the catch-up is starting with the oldest first.

She said "We also have to factor in logistical considerations such as supply of the vaccine. As vaccines go, this one is very expensive, but it’s also very effective and the evidence tells us that this will make a difference in preventing shingles.”

Dr Nigel Minihane of Castle Quay Medical Practice said “Unfortunately, we see a lot of elderly patients with shingles. It’s a very painful condition that usually lasts for around two to four weeks. Most commonly, the shingles rash develops as a line of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso. Sometimes the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face. About one in five of those who get shingles will experience severe nerve pain – this can persist for three to six months or even longer. Living with nerve pain can be very difficult and usually, the older you are, the worse it can be.”

The vaccine course consists of just a single injection. Those who have already had shingles can still be vaccinated, as the vaccine will boost their immunity against further shingles attacks. The cost of the vaccine is being paid for by the Health and Social Services Department; GPs may charge a consultation fee to administer the injection.

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