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Now, shingles vaccine for 65 yr olds

From 1st September 2023, as soon as you have your 65th birthday, you will be entitled to have the new two-dose Shingrix vaccine. This is very effective in preventing shingles. People with normal health have the second injection 6 – 12 months after the first one. If people have a compromised immune system or are on certain drugs, the second injection is between 2 and 6 months later.

For now, people who are already 65 on 1st September will have to wait till they are 70 to be offered a shingles vaccine.

The programme to vaccinate people who are aged 70-79 years old will continue. They will be offered the single-dose vaccine, Zostavax, by their GPs. This has been used for over ten years in the UK. Zostavax has been shown to give a 70% reduction in the number of cases of shingles. And if shingles does occur in vaccinated people, symptoms are much milder.

Once the current stocks of Zostavax are used up, people in the 70-79 year age bracket will be offered Shingrix, the more effective, double-dose, vaccine.

These vaccinations (Zostavax or Shingrix) are expected to last for the rest of your life.

What’s the difference?

Zostavax is a live-attenuated virus vaccine, like the well-known MMR and polio vaccines. Shingrix is a recombinant vaccine. It is made from combining modified DNA from the virus with a fatty protein called an adjuvant. This boosts the body’s response to the vaccine. People who are immunocompromised in some way will be offered Shingrix.

How do people get shingles?

Anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles. It happens more frequently in older people. And older people are at greater risk of developing pain in the area affected by shingles. This pain may continue long after the shingles rash has healed completely. It is called post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) and is very difficult to treat. The vaccines have been shown to help prevent both shingles and the PHN that may follow on.

Headache and injection site reactions (itching, aching) are the most common side-effects of shingles vaccine injections.

Can I buy shingles injections?

These vaccines are approved for use for anyone from 50 years on. This means you may be able to buy them through private healthcare providers, or travel vaccine clinics, your local pharmacy, etc., if you are 50 years or older.

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A lady with shingles on her face:

Information based on NHS pages. Published 20-7-2023. To be reviewed no later than 20-7-2026.