Thousands missing out on shingles prevention programme as one in four set to get the virus in their lifetime.
A London-wide Keep Well and Prevent Shingles campaign to raise awareness of the vaccination programme for people aged 70 to 73 has been launched after figures showed the capital has just a 48 per cent vaccination rate versus the rest of England on 58 per cent.
The Keep Well and Prevent Shingles campaign – launched by The Office of London Clinical Commissioning Groups, backed by national health bodies and supported by social media – aims to increase take up of the free one-time dose vaccine, at GPs, to protect against shingles and the long-term pain it can cause.
Anyone aged between 70 and 73 is entitled to the free shingles vaccination at any time, and can in most cases be given at the same time as the annual flu jab. Those aged 78 and 79 can also be treated, right up until their 80th birthday.
It is estimated that around one in four people aged over 70 will get shingles.
But if people have the shingles vaccine, the chance of getting the rash will be decreased by up to 50 per cent. Even if people get the rash in that 50 per cent, the rash will be milder and even if people get the pain, it will be milder.
The campaign will run from the end of June to October and is supported by all London Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS England London, Public Health England (London) and all London pharmacies, which will be running a patient signposting campaign throughout July. The Keep Well and Prevent Shingles campaign will be supported by the #Shingles social media programme.
Dr Debbie Frost, the campaign’s Clinical Commissioning Lead, said: “The reason I’m passionate about the shingles immunisation is that anything that causes misery and disrupts the lives of our patients which can easily be prevented should be, and this is often the case with shingles.”
“We bring our children to be vaccinated and take it very seriously, I wish we gave a similar priority to adults.”
All GPs and pharmacy leads have been sent a shingles vaccination support pack, which includes letters and recalls for patients, patient leaflets and practice posters.
It is estimated that about one in four over the age of 70 will get shingles. However, the risk is greater with advancing age, and the older you are, the worse the disease can be.
The painful, blistering rash that typically appears on one side of the face or body can last for two to four weeks, and for some, nerve pain, dizziness, hearing loss and eye infections can last for months or even years after visible symptoms go away.
In patients with immune deficiency, the rash can be much more extensive than usual and the illness can be complicated by pneumonia. These cases are more serious, but they are rarely fatal. Very rarely, shingles can also lead to pneumonia, brain inflammation (encephalitis), or death.