You don't 'catch' shingles (herpes zoster)as such, but rather symptoms develop because of reactivation of the chickenpox virus - this can happen due to a number of factors including illness, medication or advancing age. Anyone who has previously had chickenpox carries a risk of developing shingles. It can be a trivial illness but frequently it robs people of energy and can cause considerable pain. It can also have long term effects, particularly if it is not treated quickly or if it affects sensitive parts of the body such as the eye. It usually presents with a painful blistering skin rash and can go on to cause pain for many years even after the rash has healed - this is called postherpetic neuralgia. You can have shingles more than once.
Shingles is a condition well worth avoiding, particularly due to the long-term risks of pain. The vaccine may reduce your risk of developing shingles at all or if you do go on to to have shingles despite having the vaccine, your symptoms are likely to be milder and the length of the illness shorter. If you have already had shingles, it is still worthwhile having the vaccine as it will boost your immunity and reduce the risk of future attacks of shingles. The vaccine contains a weakened version of the chickenpox virus, only needs to be given once and can be given at any time of year.
Very occasionally, people can develop a mild chickenpox-like illness following the vaccine. There is lots of evidence showing that the vaccine is safe and it is already widely used in the US and Canada
The vaccine is available through the National Health Service for limited groups of people (those who are 70 and those who are 78). From a purely medical perspective, we would recommend it for everyone aged 60 and over (unless specifically contraindicated). If you have a family member who is 60 or over who you think should also be included, we would be grateful if you would share this information with them as well.
Each dose is approximately £170.00. If you would like a shingles vaccine or further detailed advice please phone and make an appointment to see one of our GPs. Please mention the vaccine when you phone so we can reserve one for you as we are currently experiencing increased demand.
There are numerous websites that will provide detailed information such as: