Dr's Casebook: Choosing to have vaccines you are eligible for is sensible

Having reached a certain age milestone, I was delighted to receive a letter from my GP surgery inviting me in to have a free shingles vaccine.

By Jane Chippindale
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 5:59 pm

Dr Keith Souter writes: I duly made an appointment to go in, put on my required mask, as they are still working with Covid precautions and saw the senior practice sister.

After giving me all the information about the vaccine she adroitly popped it in my arm. Another satisfied patient left within minutes.

As you will have read from my articles over the past two years I am totally behind vaccination in general and the Covid vaccination programme in particular.

The shingles vaccine is only needed once

I feel it is sensible, however, to have whichever other vaccine you are offered whenever eligible.

Vaccination has always been one of the great success stories in the history of medicine, and the benefits during the pandemic underscore this.

Shingles is a painful skin condition caused by the chickenpox virus, which may have remained dormant in a skin nerve.

You don’t catch shingles; it is something that can flare up.

Although most people who develop shingles get better over a period of a few weeks, some people are left with chronic pain called post herpetic neuralgia, sometimes lasting for years.

This is worth preventing.

The vaccine is given into the upper arm.

Unlike the flu vaccine which you can have every year, the shingles is only needed once.

It is available to people in their 70s, but not from 80 and above because it is usually much milder then.

If you have previously had shingles you can still have the vaccine, although you are usually advised to wait, perhaps a whole year by your doctor.

There are in fact two shingles vaccines available.

The single dose is a live virus vaccine and is given if there is no risk of your immune system being compromised.

If it is, then the alternative is a two dose non-living vaccine given two months apart.

Finally, you can have the shingles vaccine at the same time as most other vaccines, but it is advised to leave seven days between the shingles vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccines.

This is not because they interact, but simply so that if side effects occur, you will know which vaccine caused it.

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