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Shingles vaccine free for the elderly

Flu vax not perfect, but it’s the best we have - Featured Image

Seventy-year-old Australians can now get the shingles vaccine for free.

Shingles is a painful rash, which can blister and is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

One in three adults is at risk of developing the virus in their lifetime which has a particularly debilitating effect on older people.

Related: Shingles patients at increased stroke risk

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced the expansion of the National Immunisation Program on Wednesday and a catch-up program available for adults aged 71 to 79 years.

“This new program is an important reminder that vaccinations don’t stop at childhood,” Ms Ley said.

“Regardless of how healthy and fit you feel, as you age you are at increased risk of contracting serious illnesses.”

The shingles vaccine is the first adult vaccine for a new disease added to the National Immunisation Program, which now provides free vaccines for eligible people for 17 infectious diseases.

A fact sheet for immunisation providers can be found here.

Three facts about the expansion of the National Immunisation Program

  • Zostavax can be given at the same time as influenza vaccine, using separate syringes and injection sites.
  • Persons with a history of a previous episode of herpes zoster (HZ) can be given zoster vaccine. The safety and immunogenicity of zoster vaccine in persons with a history of HZ has been studied in one small clinical trial; the vaccine was well tolerated and immunogenic.
  • Zoster vaccination of persons who have previously received varicella vaccine is not recommended at this time. There have been limited studies of the safety and immunogenicity of zoster vaccine in this setting, and the currently available data are insufficient to suggest a benefit from vaccination.

Source: The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th ed. 

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