Thousands eligible to receive shingles vaccination - are you?

Preparing an injection
Preparing an injection

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding all people aged 70 that they are eligible to receive the shingles vaccine.

Every year in Northern Ireland, around 1,000 people in their seventies will get shingles. The vaccine will help protect against this common and painful disease and its complications.

The shingles vaccine will be offered routinely to people who are aged 70 years on 1 September 2017 (born between 2 September 1946 and 1 September 1947 inclusive).

And as part of a catch-up programme for those aged 78 on 1 September (born between 2 September 1938 and 1 September 1939 inclusive).

Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “It is estimated that in Northern Ireland around 27,000 people will be eligible for the vaccine this year.

"Last year just over half of eligible 70 and 78 year-olds got the vaccine (51% and 50% respectively).

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

“For many people, shingles can be a mild infection with good recovery. But it can be very painful and is more likely to affect people as they get older. The older people are, the worse it can be, with some people left with pain that can last for years after the rash has healed.

“It is estimated that the vaccination programme will prevent many 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.”

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

Dr Johnston continued: “Side effects are usually quite mild and don’t last very long. The most common side effects include headache and/or pain and swelling at the site of the injection.

“If you are invited for the vaccine by your GP because you are in the eligible age group, I would encourage you to get vaccinated to help avoid getting shingles and its painful after-effects.”

People who have lowered immunity must not receive the shingles vaccine, including people who are on chemotherapy or who have leukaemia or lymphoma. Check with your GP if you are receiving any treatment, especially if it is prescribed to you at a hospital.

For further information see: www.pha.site/shingles