Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin around it. It is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
Following chickenpox infection, the virus can lie dormant in the nervous tissue but may reappear following reactivation as shingles. It is possible to have shingles more than once.
90% of adults raised in the UK have had chickenpox, although not everyone may recall having it. If you have had chickenpox then you are at risk of developing shingles.
The Department of Health introduced the national shingles immunisation programme in adults aged 70 years with a catch-up programme for people in their late 70s, to help protect the age groups most at risk from shingles and its complications.
The national shingles immunisation programme is recommended for people aged 70 to 79, but is being introduced in phases. If you are eligible, your local practice may contact you and ask you to book an appointment. You can also proactively ask your healthcare professional about the programme if you think you may be eligible.
Vaccination is currently being offered to those who are aged 70 to 76, 78 and 79, and to anyone aged 77 who was born after 1 September 1942. People who are in their seventies but are not yet eligible for vaccination, will be offered vaccination in future years under the national programme.
A handy eligibility calculator is available here – enter your details and it will tell you if you are eligible, or when you will be eligible.
A handy poster is available– which helps decide if you are eligible for the shingles vaccination – if you’re a member of a community or voluntary group, you may wish to download and print this to display in any public buildings.
Visit the MSD website for further information about shingles.
Watch this short video on Shingles – what it is, how it could affect you and when to ask about having the Shingles vaccine.