Public Health England has urged GPs to encourage eligible patients to get the shingles vaccine after a study showed that the vaccine cut cases by a third between 2013 and 2016.
PHE has reported a decrease in uptake of the shingles vaccine since its inception in 2013, despite research showing that the vaccine cuts the incidence of shingles and reduces the number of GP consultations associated with the condition.
The study, published in the Lancet Journal of Public Health, looked at patients who were registered at a geographically representative selection of GP surgeries between 2005 and 2016.
It found that the incidence of shingles reduced by 35% in the three years following the introduction of the vaccine in 2013 for those aged 70, with the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia falling by half. This corresponded to 17,000 fewer cases of shingles and 3300 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia.
PHE have responded to the findings by urging GPs to encourage eligible patients to be vaccinated.
They said in the paper: ‘Given the demonstrated impact of the programme on herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia, the benefits of the programme need to be effectively communicated to health professionals and the public to maximise protection from this potentially debilitating condition in those most at risk.’
PHE reported in their 2016/2017 evaluation of the vaccination programme that coverage in the routine cohort, who receive the vaccine at 70 years of age, had fallen by 13.5% since 2013
A PHE spokesperson said: ‘PHE is encouraging healthcare professionals and the public to be aware of the complications surrounding shingles and to encourage those within the eligible groups to get vaccinated.’
Pulse reported last February that shingles vaccine coverage had experienced a large decline at the beginning of the 2016/2017 programme compared to previous years.
PHE experts attributed the reduced uptake to more patients receiving their flu jab at a pharmacy, meaning that GPs had fewer opportunities to opportunistically identify eligible patients and offer them the shingles vaccine.
BMA GP Committee prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green said: ‘I would agree that the evidence is encouraging for shingles vaccination, and we should try to get as many patients vaccinated as possible. The enhanced service does not provide resources for GPs to contact their patients, but relies on opportunistic vaccination, so amending the specification and payments to encourage this might be worthwhile.’