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Shingles vaccine for Islanders reaching 70

05 July 2016

A vaccine to protect against shingles is to be offered to Islanders during their 70th birthday year. With effect from 1 July, those born in 1946 will be able to get the vaccine during 2016 as part of a new vaccination programme aimed at reducing the incidence and severity of shingles among older people in Jersey.

Around a quarter of adults will get shingles in their lifetime. In the UK, around 50,000 people above the age of 70 develop the disease annually. Jersey has 80 to 90 cases of shingles per year amongst 70-79 year olds.

Dr Chad Taylor, Consultant in Pain Medicine, said “Shingles is a painful, itchy, burning blistering of the skin which affects an area on one side of the body; most commonly the chest but sometimes the head, chest or eye. It commonly lasts for around four weeks.

"One in five people go on to develop nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia in the affected area of skin. I regularly see patients who have been severely affected and experience a significant drop in their quality of life. In 50% of those who experience nerve pain, this can persist for three to six months. Of those who develop secondary complications, some may need to go into hospital.”

More painful in over 70s

Those aged over 70 are more likely to suffer from shingles for longer; it is often more painful (so much so that just clothes brushing against the affected area can cause considerable pain) and can be fatal in one in 1,000 cases.

Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes said “Almost everybody gets chickenpox – even if it’s too mild to notice – so there’s a strong chance of many people developing shingles in older age. There is no cure, but the vaccine can help prevent people from developing shingles.

“Shingles vaccine is a very expensive vaccine; it costs around £100 per dose and people could expect to be charged between £100 and £200 to obtain it privately. We consider that it’s very important to fund this vaccine in Jersey and to make it available for people as they reach their 70th birthday year. The purpose of giving the vaccine at this age is to prevent the development of shingles in later years and significantly reduce the severity of the disease if it does occur. The vaccine course consists of just a single injection. You can have the vaccine even if you've already had shingles, as the vaccine will boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.”

2016 vaccination for those born in 1946

From 1 July, the vaccine is available via GP surgeries in Jersey for Islanders born between 1 January 1946 and 31 December 1946. They can make an appointment with their GP surgery to get the vaccine at any time up to the end of December 2016. In 2017, the vaccine will then be offered to Islanders born in 1947, in 2018 to those born in 1948 and so on. The cost of the vaccine is being paid for by the Health and Social Services Department (HSSD); GPs may charge a consultation fee to administer the injection.

Dr Diggle added: “When people reach their 70th birthday year, we strongly advise they ask their doctor for the shingles vaccine. The UK expert advisory group on vaccines, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also recommends shingles vaccine for those aged 71-79 and the NHS is gradually rolling the vaccine out to these older age cohorts. In Jersey, we’re planning to gradually roll out a ‘catch-up’ vaccination programme for the 71-79 age group and we’ll be announcing the details of this later in the year. Once people reach age 80 or over, the vaccine is not suitable for them because it isn’t as effective in older age groups.”

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