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Shingles Vaccine Eligibility and Age: A Comprehensive Guide

The painful rash known as shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that leads to chickenpox. Once a person has caught chickenpox and recovered from it, the virus stays dormant in the body. As we age, it can reactivate and cause shingles. Getting vaccinated can help prevent shingles or reduce symptoms if you do get it. This article provides a comprehensive guide to shingles vaccine eligibility and recommendations for different age groups in the UK.

Shingles Vaccine Eligibility and Age

Who is Eligible for the Shingles Vaccine?

The shingles vaccine is not part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule in the UK. Here are the current shingles vaccine eligibility and age guidelines:

  • Ages 65 to 79 - The shingles vaccine is routinely offered to people over 65 under the NHS shingles vaccination programme. It's a two dose vaccine usually given 3 months apart.

  • Ages 80 and over - People aged 80 and older are only eligible for the shingles vaccine if they have a weakened immune system. It's not part of the routine programme so they will need to request it from their GP.

  • Ages 50 to 65 - People between 50 and 65 years of age may be able to get the shingles vaccine by requesting it from their GP and paying privately. Some clinics may offer it.

  • Under 50 years - The vaccine is not routinely recommended for under 50s. However, it may be considered for adults under 50 who have a higher risk or weakened immune system. It’s best to speak to your GP if you think this applies.

Shingles Vaccine Schedule by Age

The timing of the shingles vaccine depends on your age:

Ages 65+:

British residents are offered the vaccine as part of the NHS programme when they turn 65 or soon after. You become eligible for it on the first day of September after you turn 65. If you miss the vaccine in your late 60s, you can still request it at a later date.

Ages 70 and over:

Prior to September 2023, the minimum age for the shingles vaccine on the NHS was 70. Those 70 and older should get the shingles vaccine if they haven't had it before. Speak to your GP about arranging this. The over 80s are not eligible for the vaccine unless they have a weakened immune system.

Ages 50 to 65:

For the 50-65 age group, the shingles vaccine may be recommended as a two dose vaccine. When you get vaccinated between these ages can vary depending on availability and your health as it is usually only offered to those with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV or AIDS, or those with leukaemia. If you are eager to receive the vaccine before you turn 65, it’s best to discuss timing with your GP or look into private vaccinations.

Under 50:  

For adults under 50 at higher risk, the timing of vaccination may depend on individual circumstances. Your GP can advise on the best schedule.

The Bottom Line on the Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine is highly recommended for older adults over age 65 to help prevent shingles or reduce complications from an infection. People aged 65 or older can get the vaccine for free under the NHS programme. Those aged 50 to 65 may be able to get it privately. Speak to your GP to discuss your options for vaccination based on your age and risk factors. Staying up-to-date on the shingles vaccine is an important part of maintaining your health as you age.

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