Shingles vaccine imminent…

GPs set for shingles immunisation programme in elderly patients, says the headline in the Search Medica newsletter

Government advisers have, apparently, recommended a herpes zoster vaccination programme for everyone aged 70 or over, and some other high-risk groups. There seems to be no indication when this will happen, so far, at least.

Experts say that vaccinating patients aged 70 or over would be cost-effective because of the severity and burden of the illness in old people. There is also the possibility of extending  the programme to over-65s in future.

The age 70 cut-off is intriguing. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in the US says that the vaccine should be given to people over 60. In fact, the CDC shingles vaccine FAQ is a mine of information if you’re at all worried about it; there’s also a link to a shingles Q&A page. I could find nothing comparable in the UK, sadly.

Given my normal crappy reaction to the annual flu vaccine, and the serious problems I had with the pneumonia vaccine , from which, 2 months on, I have not yet recovered, I have serious reservations about this vaccine.

I mean, the risk of my catching (ordinary), flu is very high, the risk of viral pneumonia less so – I have no idea what the risk of going down with shingles is (everyone who has had chicken pox has its virus – varicella zoster – lurking in their system, and it can reappear as shingles – herpes zoster – pretty much at random; I’ve had it once, in my twenties).

The vaccine will reduce the risk of shingles occurring by about 50%, as far as I’ve been able to establish, which has to be weighed against the risk of serious side effects in vulnerable people, such as those with ME/CFS, like me. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the injection site. Pretty much what I should have got from the pneumonia jab, which simply wiped me out instead. Still, I don’t qualify for it anyway, so I’m not worried about it. Whether or not you should be, well, that’s for you to decide, based on the information to which I’ve linked, above.