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The Department of Health has been urged to change its eligibility guidelines for the shingles vaccine following a decline in the uptake of the vaccination amongst older people.
The International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) has advised the Government to make the changes following Public Health England's (PHE) report.
The report reveals a decline in the uptake of the vaccination in both the routine (70-year-old) and catch up (78-years-old) cohorts, from 61 per cent in 2013/14 to 54 per cent in 2015/16 and from 57 per cent in 2014/15 to 55 per cent in 2015/16, respectively.
David Sinclair, director at ILC-UK and editor of the European Adult Immunisation Hub said: “Vaccination is not just for kids. In an ageing society we need a much greater focus on improving awareness and uptake of vaccination among adults. Anything we can do to reduce likelihood of pain is of huge importance in old age, with six in ten people in their mid-70s suffering from pain.
“Shingles can be a significant cause of pain in old age and vaccination is an effective way of reducing the likelihood that we will suffer from it. We must ensure that older people eligible for the shingles vaccination take up their right to receive it."
The shingles vaccination programme aims to reduce the incidence and severity of shingles in those targeted by the programme by boosting individuals’ pre-existing varicella zoster virus immunity.
According to the NHS, around one in four people will have at least one episode of shingles during their life, which most commonly occurs in people over the age of 70.
Early symptoms of shingles can include a headache, burning, tingling, numbness or itchiness of the skin in the affected area, a feeling of being generally unwell as well as a high temperature (fever).
From last September, the shingles vaccine is offered routinely to people aged 70 and, as a catch up, to those aged 78. However, the shingles vaccine is not available on the NHS to anyone aged 80 and over because it “seems to be less effective in this age group.”
Mr Sinclair added: “Some parts of the country have very low coverage of the shingles vaccine among eligible people. It is important that Public Health England and the Department of Health work to ensure that we don’t see emerging a postcode lottery in access to the vaccine.
“The complexity of the age of eligibility guidelines for shingles will no doubt be hampering the ability to communicate uptake to relevant individuals. Perhaps now is the time to extend eligibility to everyone between 70 and 80, after all, all of these people are at risk and would benefit from vaccination.”