Pharmacies across London have begun a month-long campaign to support an initiative to raise awareness of the national NHS shingles vaccination programme.

During July, London pharmacies are highlighting the availability of the shingles vaccine to eligible groups of patients, asking them a few simple questions to help identify those who will benefit from having the vaccination. If their eligibility is confirmed and they are yet to receive the vaccine, pharmacy staff will signpost them to their general practice to get the vaccine.

Shingles is a debilitating illness affecting mostly the elderly and can leave those affected with a severe rash and nerve pain that can persist for months or even years. Patients are eligible to have the vaccination between the ages of 70 and 73 and there is a catch-up programme for those aged between 78 and 80.

Uptake of the vaccine across London boroughs varies hugely, with the overall rate being 48 per cent of those eligible, compared with 58 per cent in the rest of the country. The uptake in some London boroughs is as low as 36 per cent.

The mayor of London's health advisor and practising GP Dr Tom Coffey said: "This safe, free, one-time vaccination is very important to elderly patients in order to prevent the potentially nasty effects of the shingles virus, which can be life-changing for vulnerable older people. The chance of getting the rash will be decreased by up to 50 per cent. If you get shingles, despite having the vaccination, the illness is likely to be much milder. It’s good to see GP practices and community pharmacies collaborating to take this message forward to protect our patients.”

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