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NHS shingles vaccine will be offered to almost one million more people

Almost a million more people (900,000) will become eligible for a shingles vaccination from September, the NHS has announced.

Anyone who is severely immunosuppressed and over 50 will be able to get two doses of the Shingrix vaccine – currently the vaccine is only available to those over 70.

From 1 September 2023, those turning 65 and 70 will also be able to get the vaccine after their birthday, in addition to those already aged 70-80. Patients will be contacted by their GP practice when they become eligible.

Eligibility will then be expanded to include those 60 and up by September 2033.

The change comes on the back of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommending that the Shingrix vaccine should be extended to a wider cohort of people, after trials showed the vaccine was highly effective and safe for these groups.

Shingles can occur at any age, but the risk and severity of shingles and its complications increase with age and is higher in individuals who have a severely weakened immune system.

Shingles cannot be caught from other people. Instead, it develops in people who have previously been infected with chickenpox over their lifetime. Chickenpox can appear quite mildly in people so many will be unaware if they have been infected in the past, but studies show that nearly every adult has had the virus.

At least nine in 10 adults are already infected with the virus that causes Shingles, having had chickenpox as children, and around one in four people will go on to develop Shingles in their lifetime – the risk of this increases with age.

Some cases can result in serious symptoms such as blindness, hearing loss, nerve pain and potentially death, however the vaccine can significantly reduce the risk of people developing shingles and experiencing nasty symptoms.

GPs and practice nurses may also offer the vaccines opportunistically, such as during routine visits or check-ups, to make it as easy as possible for patients to get the jab. Chickenpox can also appear mildly in some so some might think they have never had it, but it is vital that anyone eligible, even if you think you may not be at risk, gets the vaccine.