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

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

For the month of July, London pharmacies are highlighting the availability of the shingles vaccine to eligible groups of patients and will ask those they think might be eligible a few simple questions to help identify those who will benefit from having the vaccination done at their GP practice. If their eligibility is confirmed, yet they remain unvaccinated, the 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 as soon as they reach 70 years old until they are 73. There is a catch-up programme for those aged between 78 and 80.

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.”

Pharmacists Rekha Shah and Michael Levitan of the London Pharmacy NHS Vaccination team said: "The importance of people getting this vaccination will be highlighted to those who are, or look as if they might be, eligible for the vaccination when they go into any London pharmacy during July. They will also be asked a few easy questions to raise awareness of the NHS shingles vaccination programme."

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