THE Public Health Agency is hoping to reduce the hundreds of shingles’ cases across Northern Ireland by launching a routine vaccination for 70-year-olds, and what is described as a ‘catch-up programme’ for those aged 79.
A painful skin disease which is caused by the same virus as chicken pox, shingles is estimated to affect around 25 per cent of adults at some point in life.
The virus strikes when the immune system is weakened and is both more prevalent in older people and its effects worse – for some, the rash may clear up but the pain can remain for years.
It is estimated that the vaccination programme will prevent nearly 40% of the annual shingles’ cases in Northern Ireland in the over 70’s, according to Dr Maureen McCartney, Consultant in Health Protection with the PHA. It is purported that the vaccine will also reduce the severity of the symptoms for those who develop the condition.
Unlike the flu, the shingles vaccine is administered once only and this is via a single injection in the upper arm.
The vaccination programme will be available from October 1, with eligibility being determined by a person’s age on September 1 (2013) – those who are 70-years-old on this date will be offered the vaccine, alongside those who are 79.