The Shingles Vaccine is administered as a single injection into the upper arm region.
The Vaccination is designed to prevent against Shingles, which is a common painful skin disease. Typically the Shingles Vaccination is available for Free on the NHS to certain people over the age of 70.
Usually you can’t refer yourself for an injection, it has to be recommended by a Doctor or a healthcare worker such as a Nurse or Consultant.
Having the Shingles vaccine should ‘reduce’ the risk of you developing the Shingles disease. Should you develop the disease even after being vaccinated, your symptoms should be ‘mild’ and ‘shorter’ than those who don’t have the vaccination at all.
In most cases it’s fine to have the Shingles vaccine even if you’ve already had Shingles during the course of your life. Having a new vaccination in your 70s can help the body to build further ‘immunity’ against any more outbreaks.
What is Shingles?
Shingles can also be known by its medical name ‘Herpes Zoster, its a common infection of the nerves and the skin around it.
It can be located on any part of the body, however the common locations tend to be the face, eyes, chest and abdomen.
Typically the ‘classic’ symptoms of Shingles is pain, which is quickly followed by a rash. This tends to develop into blisters on the surface of the skin. Other symptoms can also include ‘generally feeling unwell’, a high temperature, burning and itchiness on the skin and a headache.
When blisters occur on the skin they tend to appear for around a week, after a few days they ‘turn’ a yellowish colour and usually dry out. From this a scab will form where the blisters were located.
In most cases the skin will be tender to touch and some people have ‘stabbing pains’. The pain from Shingles is usually ‘constant’ however it can increase in intensity depending on how bad the infection is.
For most people Shingles lasts for around two to four weeks.
How is Shingles Spread?
Even though you may be in or near to your 70s, Shingles is actually a ‘re-occurrence’ of chickenpox you may have had as a child.
Usually when people have chickenpox in childhood the virus remains ‘inactive’ in the nervous system. This is because the body naturally keeps the virus contained, so it doesn’t cause any symptoms or illness.
Although it’s not known exactly why the virus ‘reactivates’ later in life, Shingles is thought to be caused by the immune system gradually ‘getting weaker’ and lowing it’s natural defences against diseases and infections.
Shingles tends to be caused by:
- Old Age – Typically the immunity system lowers its protection as people age, this means virus’ can occur more easily.
- Stress – Believe it or not, stress releases chemicals into the body, usually when people are highly stressed their body can’t fight all of the symptoms at once. This means just like a computer the ‘system’ crashes, stress can prevent the immune system from functioning properly, when the body is trying to do too much at the same time.
- HIV and AIDS – People who have HIV are generally more likely to have a weaker immune system than the general population. This means the chances of an infection occurring increase.
- Chemotherapy – People who are being treated for cancer can have weak immune systems because of the treatments they’re receiving.
- Transplants – Before most transplants the body needs to be ‘conditioned’ to accept the new organ, this means the immune system can be weakened.
How Can I Get the Shingles Vaccination?
In most cases you will have to ‘eligible’ for the Shingles vaccination on the National Health Service. This is for people in there 70s. Typically if your Doctor recommends you having the vaccine it will likely be given at the same time you receive an annual flu injection.
However remember that you don’t need a Shingles vaccine every year like a flu vaccination. You tend to only need it at 70 and 78 years of age, unless your GP says otherwise.
How safe is the Shingles Vaccine?
At the time of publication the National Health Service states ‘there’s lots of evidence showing that the Shingles Vaccine is very safe’.
As well as being used in the UK, it’s also used in several other countries such as the United States of America and Canada.
From a logical stand-point, as the Shingles vaccination has few side effects, injections such as these tend to be regarded as ‘safe’ for the vast majority of people. If you’re concerned about the Shingles Vaccine or would like more information, please speak to your GP before your vaccine appointment.
What are the Side Effects of the Shingles Vaccine?
It’s important to remember that most vaccinations have side effects, and the Shingles immunisation is no different. The Shingles vaccine may cause side effects however they tend to be ‘mild’ and usually don’t last too long. In most cases they last for a couple of days.
Common side effects of the Shingles vaccine happen in around 1 in 10 people. They claim they have had a Headache, Redness, Pain, Swelling / Itching or bruising at the site of the injection.
You should notify your Doctor if you develop a rash after the vaccination or if your symptoms are getting worse. In very rare cases it can be possible to develop chickenpox after the Shingles Vaccine, however this tends to be less than 1 in every 10,000 vaccinations.
Equally in rare cases there is a chance of an allergic reaction to the vaccine ingredients. This is medically called ‘Anaphylaxis’. Should an allergic reaction occur, this is a serious and potentially life-threatening issue, which requires immediate medical attention.
In most cases if a reaction was going to happen, it usually occurs within minutes of the vaccination taking place. This means the person who administrated the vaccine, such as a Nurse or Doctor can easily treat the sufferer. With swift treatment people will make a full recovery.
The NHS states that a severe reaction after a vaccination is estimated at around 1 in 900,000.
Keep in mind that this Shingles Vaccination page has been written as a general guide for members of the British public. It should not replace medical advice or treatment from a Doctor. You should use this page ‘at your own risk’ – we cannot accept any responsibility or liability under any circumstance. Please always ask your GP for medical assistance or any further questions you may have regarding the Shingles Vaccine.