Shingrix vaccination – questions answered

By November 1, 2021News
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Shingrix in now able to be given to adults 18 years and above who are at increased risk of shingles.  Previously only licensed from age 50, this is great news for the younger sufferers of what can be an extremely painful condition.

What is the Shingrix vaccination for?

Shingrix vaccination has an unexpected benefit of boosting T cell levels, which is of particular importance. If you are 18 plus, we believe Shingrix vaccine can offer you additional immunity protection against infection during this extraordinary time. We thought it would be helpful to provide more details on this subject, together with further information in response to some of your questions. We hope you will find this informative, particularly while the world continues to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

Why is Shingrix vaccination particularly important at the moment?

Of particular importance is that the Shingrix vaccine appears to have a very significant effect of boosting our levels of T cells.

T cells are a vital part of our immune systems to fight infections. However, as we age, our bodies lose T cells (T cell senescence). This reduction increases the risk of older patients being more susceptible to infections.  In our recent article, we provided a link to Episode 38 of the Royal Society of Medicine COVID-19 Series webinar. The place of Shingrix improving T cell levels was briefly discussed (minutes 28 to 35) during this session.  If you have not seen this, we would encourage you to view it.

Why is Shingrix vaccination relevant if I have had/am due my COVID jab?

There is concern that Covid 19 variants may become prevalent and that these may be more resistant to current vaccines. Also, that during next autumn and winter, the world may see a significant rise in respiratory viral infections, including influenza. This was reported by Public Health England recently.

Boosting your T cell levels could play a very significant part in reducing the risk of these infections causing illness and possibly death, particularly in older patients.

Why is Shingrix better than Zostavax?

The main reason for the change from Zostavax to Shingrix vaccines is due to its very significantly improved effectiveness. Studies show Shingrix typically has over 95% efficacy in the over 65s. This effectiveness remains consistently high in patients over 70 or 80 and appears long lasting. In contrast, Zostavax efficacy is only about 35 to 40% in the over 65s, reducing in older patients.

Zostavax cannot be given to patients who are immunocompromised. However, Shingrix is suitable for all groups, and in particular if you carry a higher risk of shingles complications.

What causes shingles?

Shingles is caused by dormant chicken pox virus becoming active again. This is usually years after the original chicken pox infection and we know that this risk increases as we age. Patients who have not had chicken pox cannot get shingles. Although for most people shingles is a mild infection, it can lead to very serious side effects. Unfortunately some of the lasting effects can be lifelong and sadly in a few patients the infection can cause death.

Should I have a test to check if I’ve had chicken pox?

We are often asked if you should test to see if you have had chicken pox before having this vaccination. The expert opinion on this is no. Almost all UK adults are assumed to have had chicken pox, even if they were not aware of it. This vaccine is safe to be given to patients whether or not you have had chicken pox in the past.

If I’ve already had shingles, does that stop me from getting it again?

Patients often ask whether having an attack of shingles provides protection against it occurring again, precluding the need for vaccination. The answer again is no. In fact, an episode of shingles merely indicates that you are more susceptible to it. For these patients, it is even more important to consider vaccination.

I’ve got shingles. When can I get the vaccination?

There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles, but you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before being vaccinated.

I had the shingles vaccination at my NHS practice

Shingrix vaccination is not available through the NHS. If you have received a shingles vaccine at your NHS practice, you will have received the Zostavax vaccination. The NHS currently gives Zostavax vaccine to patients who are over 70, although it is licensed for use from age 50.

We began offering Shingrix as soon as it became available in the UK (from 2018) and this is now the vaccine of choice to prevent shingles (Zostavax has been withdrawn in the United States). Patients who have previously had Zostavax can safely have Shingrix to improve their level of protection.

Shingrix vaccination schedule

For patients aged 18 plus, including those who previously had the Zostavax shingles vaccine, we would strongly encourage you to consider Shingrix vaccination. We are very conscious that this is a significantly expensive vaccine and sadly we have no control over the cost. You require 2 doses, 2 to 6 months apart to complete your course. We will ask for full payment when taking your booking to secure your 2nd dose.

We are one of the few centres in the UK with this vaccine available, as supplies have been very scarce.

Our philosophy is to remain in the vanguard of medical care. Providing Shingrix is now an important part of that philosophy.

What side effects can I expect?

As with most vaccines, there are some common reported side effects, however, these are generally mild and pass within a couple of days.

Typical examples include:
Tenderness at injection site or the arm
Feeling tired/achy

Covid safety measures

Appropriate precautions are in place whilst we emerge from this uncertain period. We remain vigilant and continue to abide by Government guidelines to help keep us all safe.

If you suspect you may have active Covid 19 symptoms, please not to attend the practice under any circumstances. Seek an immediate test, following Government guidance.

Please contact us as soon as possible to arrange your Shingrix vaccination appointment to ensure you benefit from this important protection in the months ahead.

We look forward to welcoming you back and seeing you again soon.

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