Clock ticking for over-70s shingles shot

Aged 71 to 79? You have until October 31 to get a free shingles vaccine or be prepared to pay

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SHINGLES SHOTS: Free shingles vaccinations for 71-79-yr-olds to end this year.

SHINGLES SHOTS: Free shingles vaccinations for 71-79-yr-olds to end this year.

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If you are aged 71 to 79 and haven't had your free shingles vaccine - then the clock is ticking.

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You may feel a bit vaccined-out with all the flu and COVID news doing the rounds - well here's another important vaccine reminder - and the clock is definitely ticking.

Anyone aged 71 to 79 who hasn't had their free shingles vaccine, has until the end of October to roll up their sleeve or be prepared to pay a hefty price - both healthwise and to the hip pocket.

Australians aged 70 years can get a free shingles vaccine from their GP. However, the five year catch-up program which began in November 2016, and which allowed those aged 71 to 79 to get a free vaccination, will expire in October this year.

This means after October 2021 unvaccinated seniors in the affected age range will have to pay around $200 (depending on the pharmacy) for a vaccine, while seniors aged 70 can continue to get the vaccine for free.

Shingles is the common name for herpes zoster and is a painful and debilitating condition caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus varicella zoster which most Australians will have had as children.

The virus can lie dormant for decades in nerve cells near the spine until triggered, usually as a result of a decline in immunity due to age or immunity-suppressing medical treatment.

The condition causes a painful, often itchy blistering rash usually on one side of the body which can take several weeks to settle. It can also cause severe pain or burning sensations on the skin. In one in 10 cases, the pain and tingling of shingles can last for months or even years.

The virus can also cause pain, redness and swelling in and around the eye, as well as temporary or permanent loss of vision.

Shingles can also lead to post-herpetic neuralgia, a chronic neuropathic pain syndrome, and other complications. Older people, particularly those aged over 70 years are more likely to experience such complications. - National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

About one in three unvaccinated people will develop the illness during their lifetime and around 120,000 new Australian cases occur each year.

A spokesperson for the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance said: "We encourage anyone aged between 71 and 79 years who hasn't already received Zostavax to discuss with their GP in the next few months, i.e. before the catch-up program is scheduled to finish, whether it is appropriate for them to have the vaccine.

"Shingles can also lead to post-herpetic neuralgia, a chronic neuropathic pain syndrome, and other complications. Older people, particularly those aged over 70 years are more likely to experience such complications.

"It is important to note that Zostavax is a live vaccine and that there are contraindications for certain groups, particularly immunocompromised people

"Whilst there is strong interest in COVID-19 vaccines, it is still important that we continue with routine immunisation. It is best to discuss any questions or concerns you have about vaccines, including the shingles vaccine, Zostavax with your GP or health provider."

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