Even though the appropriate vaccinations do exist, the NHS doesn’t always provide them – leaving some groups vulnerable.
At Superdrug we will be launching a chickenpox and shingles vaccine from the middle of March, building on our current portfolio of travel, sexual health, flu and pneumonia services. The culture of self-care among patients has begun and it is gaining momentum.
Chickenpox – the highly contagious ‘old school’ virus, caused by varicella zoster – affects both adults and children. The virus spreads very easily to individuals who haven’t had it before, while people who have previously contracted chickenpox are usually immune for life.
The chickenpox vaccine is not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule in the UK and is currently only offered, by the NHS, to people in close contact with those at high risk, such as non-immune healthcare workers and people who have weakened immune systems through illnesses such as HIV, or treatments, like chemotherapy.
Meanwhile, shingles – also known as herpes zoster – is an infection of a specific nerve and the skin around it. Like chickenpox it is caused by the varicella zoster virus and it is estimated that around one in every four people will have at least one episode of shingles during their life.
The shingles vaccine – Zostavax – is indicated for anyone over the age of 50. At the moment it is only available, through the NHS, to very specific people in their 70s, but not to anyone aged 80 or over. Shingles is fatal for around one in 1000 over-70s who develop it and, under current stipulations, many people will be left unprotected.
It’s difficult to be precise, but research suggests the shingles vaccine will provide protection for at least five years so, with the population living longer, those approaching 80 would be well advised to get the vaccine.
Public Health England data describes how a single dose schedule of Zostavax was assessed in clinical trials using 17,775 adults, aged 70 years and older. The study demonstrated that the vaccine reduced the incidence of shingles by 38%. For those immunised with Zostavax, but who later developed shingles, the vaccine significantly reduced the burden of illness by 55%.
As a population, we are realising that the NHS cannot provide everything to everyone, and this is causing a shift in how people perceive their own health. These days we are more likely to take matters in our own hands – and that could mean heading for the high street, rather than the surgery.
Niamh is Clinical Development Manager at Superdrug. Please note, these are Niamh’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Superdrug business. Go to superdrug.com