Are you aged over 70 and living on the Isle of Wight? Maybe you have a loved one who is? A free vaccine is being made available to protect the Island’s older residents against shingles, which is linked to the chicken pox virus.

The GP and clinical lead for NHS Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Michele Legg says Isle of Wight residents need to protect themselves:

“Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. Most people have chickenpox as children, but the infection lays dormant in the nervous system, even after recovery from the illness and can reactivate later in life when the immune system is weakened to cause shingles.

“As people get older their immune system naturally weakens – which is why those aged 70 and over are more likely to get shingles.”

Shingles is a very itchy and burning group of blisters. NHS England says it can be very painful and debilitating and because it reactivates in the nervous system, it can lead to nerve pain and other health problems long after the initial rash has disappeared.

The rash commonly affects one area of the body, often the chest, but it can also affect any nerves – including those in the face and eyes – and can last up to four weeks. For some, the pain can persist for months after the rash has gone.

Complications of shingles can also be fatal for around one in 1,000 over-70s who develop the illness.

According to statistics for the end of August 2017, only around four in ten eligible Islanders aged in their 70s were vaccinated against shingles. It is not too late to apply. You can do it any time before your 80th birthday and protection lasts for 5 years.

The vaccine is being offered by GP practices as part of the NHS shingles vaccination programme for 2017/18.

Dr Legg added:

“One simple vaccination can save you having to go through a long, painful and debilitating illness.”