OAPs to get shingles vaccinations in bid to end almost half of cases

800,000 over-70s to receive jab

People over the age of 70 are to be offered routine shingles vaccinations in a move to prevent thousands of cases each year, officials said.

The viral infection affects more than 30,000 pensioners in England every year, but experts hope that a new vaccination programme could cut out 40 per cent of cases.

From September, people aged 70 will be able to get the Zostavax vaccine on the NHS.

The Department of Health (DH) added that people aged up to 79 will be able to take part in a "catch up programme".

At present, some pay between £150 and £200 to get the jab privately.

A DoH spokesman said that 800,000 people will be eligible for the vaccine in the first year.

Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. It causes a painful rash which develops into itchy blisters. It can occur at any age, but is most common in people who are over 50.

Officials announced the move as part of changes to the UK's immunisation schedule.

They previously announced that all children aged two to 17 are to be given the flu vaccination through a nasal spray. The programme was supposed to be rolled out throughout 2014 but experts today said that two-year-olds will be offered the spray from September this year.

At present, over-65s, pregnant women and people with a serious medical condition, including children, are eligible for a seasonal flu jab.

The UK will become the first country to offer the flu vaccine to healthy children free of charge.

Healthy children are among those who are least likely to develop complications from being infected by flu, but their close contact with each other means they are more likely to transmit the virus to one another and other vulnerable people. The mass immunisation programme is estimated to lead to 11,000 fewer hospital admissions and 2,000 fewer deaths every year.

Today, the Department of Health also announced that the planned rotavirus vaccination programme will start in July.