PHE provides advice for GPs to offer shingles vaccination

PHE and NHS letter advises that GPs can offer shingles vaccine opportunistically to patients throughout the year as they become of eligible age (70-79 years old), not just in flu season

A joint letter from Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England (NHSE), notifying healthcare practices that, ‘the shingles vaccine can now be offered opportunistically to patients throughout the year as they become of eligible age, preferably from April onwards to align with increased central vaccine availability’, has been welcomed by healthcare provider MSD.

The Shingles National Immunisation Programme (NIP) was introduced in 2013. PHE has reported that evidence from the evaluation of the shingles immunisation programme across the first three years of vaccination, published in the Lancet Public Health in February 2018, demonstrates that the incidence of herpes zoster and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) fell by 35% and 50% respectively.  These reductions are consistent with a vaccine effectiveness of about 62% against herpes zoster and 70–88% against PHN in those individuals eligible for vaccination.

In their letter, PHE and NHSE commented that, ‘The first evidence from the evaluation of the shingles immunisation programme demonstrates a marked impact on GP consultations for shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) in those individuals eligible for vaccination, and therefore emphasises the importance of this programme.’

However, since the NIP was introduced in 2013, PHE has recorded a decline of 13.% in vaccination coverage rates among 70-year olds – from 61.8% in 2013/14, to 48.3% in 2016/17.

PHE recommends 50-60% as a target for shingles vaccination coverage.

Up to now, general practices were asked to deliver the programme alongside seasonal influenza vaccination, with the majority of patients being immunised in the autumn months during the influenza vaccine season. With this update, PHE is enabling GPs to take other opportunities with their patients as they see them throughout the year.

Dr Mike England, director of medical affairs at MSD in the UK comments: “The NIP for shingles plays an important role in long-term strategies to improving the health and wellbeing of older people. As people are living longer, it’s critical that they are protected against ill health wherever possible. MSD will continue to act as a supportive partner in the nation’s approach to maintaining the wellbeing of the population as it ages.”

For more information about shingles, please visit

Information on ‘Shingles: guidance and vaccination programme’ for healthcare professionals is available at

For more information about the shingles vaccine used in the National Immunisation Programme, please visit

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