People aged 60 and over – and anyone aged 50 and over who is immunocompromised – could soon get a new shingles vaccine on the NHS.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told MPs today she wanted a programme using a newer vaccine to be rolled out later this year. The programme would be implemented in stages.
In 2019, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Government, said people aged 60 and over should be routinely offered the Shingrix shingles vaccine, which is used in other countries including the US. It also said the jab should be given to anyone aged 50 or over who is immunocompromised.
At the moment, a different vaccine, Zostavax, is offered on the NHS to people in their 70s, with Shingrix used for a minority of cases.
New Vaccine 'More Effective'
Dr Ramsay was questioned by Tory MP Steve Brine, as part of a Commons Health and Social Care Committee inquiry, about her views on vaccines for the painful illness, which has forced TV presenter Holly Willoughby off air this week.
"Am I right in saying that there is now a vaccine for over-50s that’s being rolled out for shingles?," the MP asked. "Is that true? What’s the efficacy of it and what impact could that have on, say, primary care appointments, for instance?"
Dr Ramsay told the committee: "So, we already have a shingles vaccine, which has been used successfully in over-70s now and we're moving to a programme with a newer vaccine later this year, which is a slightly different vaccine, more effective and probably lasts for longer, we believe, than the older vaccine.
"Shingles is no doubt a major cause of hospital admission, GP consultations, pain, suffering, etc.," she added. "And we do estimate that for every 1000 vaccines that we give, we prevent (an) admission to hospital so it’s a very good bang for your buck, so to speak."
"So we really do want that programme to be rolled out effectively later this year," Dr Ramsay added. "Coverage (for the existing shingles vaccine) has fallen during the pandemic… but we definitely do need to address shingles over the next few years."
Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus in people who have previously had chickenpox. It begins with a burning sensation on the skin, followed by a rash of very painful, fluid-filled blisters that can burst and turn into sores. A region on one side of the body is often affected, usually the chest. Some people can suffer pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed and shingles kills around one in 1000 older people who develop it.
A shingles vaccine is given as a jab in the upper arm. Research suggests shingles vaccines protect people for at least 5 years and probably longer. The US advises its citizens aged 50 and over to get two doses of the Shingrix jab.
This article contains information from PA Media