Gants Hill health campaigner calls for change after being denied shingles vaccine

A health campaigner has hit out at an obscure NHS policy which has stopped him being vaccinated against the painful illness shingles.

Former chairman of the Redbridge patient and public involvement forum, Dharam Sahdev, who lives in Gants Hill, had hoped to get a jab against the disease.

But the 74-year-old discovered the vaccine, introduced last year, is only routinely available to people aged 70 or 79, according to the current NHS immunsation programme.

Very serious

Now Mr Sahdev, who previously had the illness when he was 60, is calling for the rules to be changed to open it up to anyone over 70.

He said: “I have personal experience of shingles and I know it’s a very serious disease.

“It’s very painful and I suffered for about a month and a half.

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“What about people in between 70 and 79, or anyone before?”

The condition is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.

As well as a rash, people can also experience postherpetic neuralgia – severe nerve pain – which is more common in older sufferers.

Elliott Singer, medical director of the London-wide Local Medical Committee, said: “The NHS is a cash-limited resource.

“If we were living in a Disneyand sort of place, we would be saying anyone over 70.

“It would be nice and straight-forward.

“But I do feel for these sorts of patients who have experienced it before.”

Thara Raj, immunisation public health consultant with Public Health England, said the vaccine was being offered to people in their 70s “as soon as practically possible”.

She said: “If a GP feels that a patient who is aged 71 to 78 is at particular risk then they can make a clinical judgement to offer the patient the shingles vaccine.

“Over the coming years, based on supplies of the vaccine, all individuals aged between 70 and 79 years will be offered the vaccine as soon as practically possible.”