OAPs offered jab to ward off painful virus

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PENSIONERS across Wigan borough will be offered a vaccine against shingles from this week.

Following a national outbreak, GPs will now be offering the vaccine to those aged 70 and 79 as part of the Government’s plan to tackle the virus.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin around it, and can cause a painful rash.

Dr Paul Turner, Wigan Council consultant in public health, said: “We warmly welcome today’s national announcement of the new shingles vaccine being offered to people who are aged 70 on September 1.

“The vaccine is also being offered to a ‘catch-up cohort’, that is, people who are aged 79 on September 1, 2013.

“Shingles is a very painful and unpleasant condition for older adults. The new vaccine offers not only the opportunity to prevent and protect individuals, but also to reduce the overall incidence of the disease in older people.

“Based on the most recent information on the population of Wigan borough - the 2011 census - there are around 2,700 people aged 70 and 1,700 people aged 79 (a total of 4,400) within the borough who are eligible for receiving the vaccine during 2013/14.

“Individuals will receive an invitation from their GP to receive the vaccine.

“The vaccine will be offered to other groups aged between 71 and 78 as more vaccine becomes available.

“The schedules for vaccinating these groups will be announced nationally at a later date.”

Over the next few years, the programme will expand to include more of the 70 to 79 age group across the UK until it is fully covered.

After that, the jab should only need to be offered to people as they reach their 70th birthdays.

The Department of Health has said it will cost about £25m a year in England, but will save the NHS about £20m a year in fewer hospital stays, GP appointments and prescriptions.

Health minister Lord Howe said: “Shingles can be a nasty disease for older people and can lead to long-term health problems for around 14,000 people each year.

“This new vaccine can prevent some of the most serious cases, giving people the chance to live without the discomfort and pain that shingles causes.”

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Around 14,000 people develop it each year.

After someone has had chickenpox most of the virus is destroyed but some survives and lies inactive in the body in the nervous system.