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Shingles vaccine will be offered to almost one million more people

Almost a million more people will become eligible for a shingles vaccination from September, the NHS England 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.

‘While the country has been focused on the NHS’s successful Covid and flu vaccine programmes, there remain other preventable illnesses like Shingles which can be fatal to those most at risk,’ said National Director of Vaccinations and Screening at NHS England, Steve Russell.

‘With a quarter of people getting Shingles in their lifetime, and with it being one of the few conditions that cannot achieve herd immunity, the expansion of the programme will provide peace of mind to hundreds of thousands and save lives.’

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 is an extremely painful condition and complications can be long-lasting. Older people and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable. A newly available vaccine, Shingrix, is being offered on the NHS from September to those aged 65 and 70 years, and to those with severely weakened immune systems from 50 years of age,’ said Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency.

‘Two doses of vaccine are highly effective in reducing your risk of getting shingles, or if you do develop shingles, reduce the severity of your symptoms. I strongly urge all those eligible to protect themselves by taking up the offer of a vaccine when they are contacted by their GP.’