Elderly could face wait for shingles vaccine after problem with supplies

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

A programme to offer protection for the first time against the condition was launched last month following recommendations from experts.

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

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The debilitating condition tends to be more severe in older people. It affects around a quarter of a million in England and Wales every year including 50,000 over 70, of whom about one in 1,000 die of the infection.

The vaccination programme was due to inoculate people aged 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.

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. A staggered catch-up programme would be carried out in coming years for other people in their 70s to receive the vaccine.

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.