Shingles Vaccine Encouraged Among Elderly

Elderly residents of Northern Ireland are urged to avail of their free shingles vaccine when invited.

People in their seventies are susceptible to the painful disease, which is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, with around 1,000 people in that age group suffering each year.

Statistics for last year show that uptake for the vaccine was at 47% for those turning 70 and 48% for those turning 78.

About a quarter of adults will get shingles at some point in their lives. The virus remains inactive in your system after recovering from chicken pox, but can reactivate in later life when your immune system is weakened.

People who were aged 70 or 78 years of age on 01 September 2019 are eligible to receive the jab. Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the Public Health Agency, said: "This year just under 30,000 70 and 78 years olds will be eligible for this vaccine. Those who were eligible for the vaccine in previous years, but didn't receive it, can still get the vaccine this year if they are under 80 years of age."
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The vaccine is administered as a single injection in the upper arm and you only need to have it once. Side effects are usually quite mild and don't last very long, the most common including headache and/or pain and swelling at the site of the injection.

Dr Johnston continued: "Shingles causes a very painful rash and is more likely to affect people as they get older. Also 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."

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

"I would encourage anyone who receives an invitation for shingles vaccine from their GP to take up the offer if they can and help to protect yourself from a painful illness," concluded Dr Johnston.


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