Health Professionals


16 September 2013

Shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine

The Department of Health (DH) and Public Health England (PHE) have announced a vaccination programme to offer shingles vaccine (Zostavax®) to older people [1].

Individuals aged 70 years on 1st September 2013 will be routinely offered vaccination. A catch-up programme to protect older individuals will be rolled out over several years, starting with those aged 79 years on 1st September 2013 [2].

The travel health consultation is an opportunity to ensure that all vaccines offered in the UK immunisation schedule are up to date [3].  Zostavax® is a live, attenuated vaccine; travellers in the age group recommended for shingles vaccination, can receive other live parenteral (injectable) vaccine (e.g. yellow fever vaccine) either simultaneously at different injection sites.  Where this is not possible, an interval of four weeks between each vaccine should be observed [4]. 

Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the reactivation of a latent varicella zoster virus, sometimes decades after the primary infection.  Although shingles can occur at any age, incidence increases with age; estimates indicate over 50,000 cases pa in England and Wales in older people over the age of 70. The severity of the disease and incidence of Post Hepatic Neuralgia requiring hospitalisation are also increased in this age group [3].



1. Letter from NHS England Chief Operating Officer 12 July 2013. Introduction of shingles vaccine for people aged 70. 12 July 2013. [Accessed 16 September 2013]. Available at:


2. Public Health England. Press release 3 September 2013 People aged 70 and 79 offered shingles vaccine. [Accessed 16 September 2013]. Available at:

3. Public Health England: National Health Service. The complete routine immunisation schedule 2013-1014. 5 July 2013. [Accessed 16 September, 2013]. Available at:

4. Department of Health. Immunisation against infectious disease. Chapter 28a Shingles (herpes zoster). July 2012. [Accessed 16 September 2013]. Available at: