Shingles vaccine delay confirmed

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HEALTH chiefs have admitted that elderly patients could face delays in receiving a new shingles vaccine.

Amid warnings that thousands could be at risk this winter from the virus, a new programme to offer protection for the first time against the condition was launched last month following recommendations from experts.

But GP surgeries in the borough are facing difficulties getting hold of further amounts of the vaccine which is being blamed on problems supplying it to the UK.

The vaccination programme was due to inoculate people aged between 70 and 79 using jabs made by pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur MSD.

But officials from Public Health England admitted there had been a “temporary delay” in supplies, although it was expected this would not impact on the overall programme to immunise people in the coming year and large quantities had already been distributed.

Dr Paul Turner, Wigan Council consultant in public health, said: “Shingles is a very painful and unpleasant condition for older adults. The new vaccine offers not only the opportunity to prevent and protect individuals, but also to reduce the overall incidence of the disease in older people.

“Based on the most recent information on the population of Wigan borough - the 2011 census - there are around 2,700 people aged 70 and 1,700 people aged 79 (a total of 4,400) within the borough who are eligible for receiving the vaccine during 2013/14. Individuals will receive an invitation from their GP to receive the vaccine. The schedules for vaccinating these groups will be announced nationally at a later date.”

Head of immunisation at Public Health England Mary Ramsay said people in their 70s were most likely to benefit due to a high incidence of the infection and of complications in the age group.

Shingles develops when the chickenpox virus many people suffered decades previously is reactivated due to advancing age, medication, illness or stress. It can be very painful with some people left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed.

A spokesman for Sanofi Pasteur MSD said the delay was down to additional testing required for distribution within the European Union but added that the programme was ongoing and the doses required will be delivered.