Public Health England (PHE) says supplies of the shingles vaccine are now sufficient to implement the recent change to the national shingles immunisation programme.
In 2017/18 it was agreed that rather than immunising patients during the influenza season, patients should be opportunistically immunised at any point in the year once they reach the eligibility age of 70-78 years. However, in order to ensure appropriate vaccine supply, practices were asked to maintain the existing approach, with the majority of patients being immunised in the autumn months.
PHE says stocks are now available to support this change to the criteria and advises that opportunistic immunisation as proposed should be initiated from this month onwards.
The organisation hopes that the simplified eligibility criteria will help to address the year-on-year decline in shingles vaccine uptake and will assist practices in identifying eligible patients. By the end of August 2017, just less than half of eligible individuals had been vaccinated against shingles.
The first evidence from the evaluation of the shingles immunisation programme have shown that the initiative has had a marked effect on GP consultations for shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). Figures published recently in Lancet Public Health show the programme has achieved the equivalent of 17,000 fewer episodes of herpes zoster and 3300 fewer episodes of PHN among 5.5 million eligible individuals immunised in the first 3 years of the programme.