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Shingles cases reduced by a third due to vaccine

Public Health England (PHE) has urged practice nurses and GPs to encourage eligible patients to get the shingles vaccine after a study showed that the vaccine cut cases by a third between 2013 and 2016.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health, looked at patients who were registered at a geographically representative selection of GP practices between 2005 and 2016.

It found that the incidence of shingles reduced by 35% in the three years following the introduction of the vaccine in 2013 for those aged 70, with the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia falling by half. This corresponded to 17,000 fewer cases of shingles and 3,300 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia.

‘Given the demonstrated impact of the programme on herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia, the benefits of the programme need to be effectively communicated to health professionals and the public to maximise protection from this potentially debilitating condition in those most at risk,’ the study said.

A PHE spokesperson said: ‘PHE is encouraging healthcare professionals and the public to be aware of the complications surrounding shingles and to encourage those within the eligible groups to get vaccinated.’

In 2016/17 PHE found that coverage in the routine cohort, who receive the vaccine at 70 years of age, had fallen by 13.5% since 2013, despite research showing that the vaccine cuts the incidence of shingles and reduces the number of primary care appointments associated with the condition.

PHE experts attributed the reduced uptake to more patients receiving their flu jab at a pharmacy, meaning that pratices had fewer opportunities to opportunistically identify eligible patients and offer them the shingles vaccine.

Lancet Public Health 2017; available online 21 December