ShinglesPublic Health England is encouraging eligible older people to get vaccinated against shingles, after the latest figures revealed a drop in the number of people taking up the vaccination.

Data for September – November 2015 revealed a 2% drop in the number of people aged over 70 taking the vaccination, down from 39.8% in the same period in the previous year to 37.8%. In the catch-up cohort (those aged over 78 years of age) figures were also down on the same period last year, from 38.6% to 38.2%.

From 1 September 2015, the shingles vaccine has been offered to people aged 70 years on that date. People aged 78 years on 1 September 2015 can also get vaccinated.

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox), which is commonly caught in childhood. After a person has had chickenpox, the virus can lie dormant in the nervous tissue but may reappear as shingles. An episode of shingles typically lasts around two to four weeks. The main symptoms are pain, followed by a rash. It is possible to have shingles more than once.

Although shingles vaccination is often offered at the same time as the annual flu vaccination, shingles vaccine is available at any time throughout the year to eligible people.

Those who were eligible for immunisation in the first two years of the programme but have not yet been vaccinated against shingles remain eligible until their 80th birthday. These are people aged 71, 72 or 79 on 1 September 2015.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said: “It’s worth taking the time and effort to visit your doctor to get the shingles vaccine as it protects you against a painful condition. You only need to be vaccinated once and it’s important that you get it while you’re the right age.

“We offer the shingles vaccine routinely to individuals at the age of 70 years to boost their immunity to prevent the development of shingles and significantly reduce the incidence of post herpetic neuralgia – persistent nerve pain that can occur at the site of a previous attack of shingles.

“Since the introduction of the shingles vaccine there has been a considerable reduction in the number of cases of this debilitating and painful condition.”