Shingles is characterised by a painful vesicular skin rash. The main complication of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a long-lasting neuropathic pain after rash has resolved. PHN can persist for months or years and is often debilitating. The risk and severity of PHN increases strikingly with age and is estimated to double with each decade. Other significant complications include herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO), which is defined by shingles involvement in the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve.
A national Shingles vaccination programme was introduced in September 2013 using Zostavax®. Since it is a live attenuated vaccine, it is contra-indicated for patients who have a known primary or acquired immunodeficiency state or patients who are receiving current immunosuppressive therapy including high-dose corticosteroids, biological therapies or combination therapies.
In the third year of the programme (1 September 2015 to 31 August 2016) vaccine was offered to those aged 70 years old on 1 September 2015 (born between 2 September 1944 and 1 September 1945) and to a catch-up cohort comprised of adults aged 78 years old on 1 September 2015 (born between 2 September 1936 and 1 September 1937). In addition, people who were eligible for the programme since the start in September 2013 but who had not yet taken up the offer continued to remain eligible, on an opportunistic basis, until the age of 79 (as on 1 September 2015).
An additional two cohorts, those aged 76 (born between 2 September 1937 and 1 September 1938) and 77 years (born between 2 September 1938 and 1 September 1939).