A vaccine to prevent shingles, a common, painful skin disease is available on the NHS to certain people in their 70s.
The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection into the upper arm. Unlike the flu jab, you'll only need to have the vaccination once and you can have it at any time of the year.
The shingles vaccine is expected to reduce your risk of getting shingles. If you are unlucky enough to go on to have the disease, your symptoms may be milder and the illness shorter.
Shingles can be very painful and uncomfortable. Some people are left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed. And shingles is fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop it.
It's fine to have the shingles vaccine if you've already had shingles. The shingles vaccine works very well in people who have had shingles before and it will boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.
Who can have the shingles vaccination?
You are eligible for the shingles vaccine if you are aged 70 or 78 years old.
In addition, anyone who was eligible for immunisation in the previous three years of the programme but missed out on their shingles vaccination remains eligible until their 80th birthday. This includes:
- anyone in their 70s who were born after 1 September 1942 and not yet had the vaccine.
- anyone aged 79 years old who have missed out on the vaccine in previous years.
People aged 80 and over are not eligible for the Shingles Vaccination because the vaccine becomes less effective as people get older.
You can have the shingles vaccination at any time of year, though many people will find it convenient to have it at the same time as their annual flu vaccination.
Who should not have the shingles vaccination?
You should not have the shingles vaccine if you:
- have a weakened immune system (for example, because of cancer treatment , if you take steroid tablets , if you've had your spleen removed, or if you've had an organ transplant – your doctor will advise whether this applies to you)
- you've had a serious allergic reaction (including an anaphylactic reaction ) to a previous dose of any of the substances in the vaccine, such as neomycin and gelatin – again, your GP can advise you if this applies to you
- you've had a serious allergic reaction (including an anaphylactic reaction) to a previous dose of the chickenpox vaccine
- have an untreated TB infection
There's more information about shingles vaccination in this NHS leaflet.