How furious Mail readers reacted to our report on NHS rules that mean 65-year-olds and over-70s get vital shingles jab but not those aged 66 to 69… as now even top politicians are stepping in to try to sort out the mess

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  • Did YOU miss out on the shingles jab? Email health@mailonsunday.co.uk 

Frustrated Mail on Sunday readers have lashed out at ‘insulting’ and ‘bonkers’ regulations that mean people aged 65 and the over 70s can have a shingles vaccination, but those aged 66 to 69 are barred.

This newspaper last week highlighted the situation that has left some three million Britons without the latest protection against the painful virus.

The crucial Shingrix jab – which is given as two doses and has been proven to significantly reduce the chances of developing shingles – is offered to everyone when they turn 65 as well as those aged between 70 and 80. It will soon be offered to all over-80s, too.

But a worldwide shortage has led the Government to prioritise inoculating certain age groups – leaving 66 to 69-year-olds in the dark despite being just as much at risk.

Readers have written to us in their droves, telling how they’ve been denied the jab upon request – something many have branded ‘blatant age discrimination’.

Frustrated Mail on Sunday readers have lashed out at ‘insulting’ and ‘bonkers’ regulations that mean people aged 65 and the over 70s can have a shingles vaccination, but those aged 66 to 69 are barred (stock image)

MPs are now taking notice – Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has raised concerns with the Department of Health and Social Care about the situation, this newspaper understands. Ms Mordaunt says she plans to lobby the Government to allow everyone to get the vaccine from the age of 65.

We have also been contacted by people across the UK claiming that due to the strict NHS rules they have been forced to spend more than £400 to get the jab privately.

Older patients also complained that they were banned from getting the Shingrix vaccine as they had already received a now-outdated, ineffective jab in the past.

One 80-year-old told us how they have suffered four bouts of shingles since receiving the old vaccine ten years ago. Others explained they had been hit by the virus between the ages of 66 and 69 and were furious about being blocked from the latest jab.

The condition is linked to chicken-pox – the highly contagious infection that leads to itchy, spotty rashes, usually in children.

The virus that causes it – varicella-zoster – remains in the body for life, lying dormant in the spinal nerves, but as the immune system weakens with age it can reactivate, causing a blotchy, red rash of blisters that can end up being excruciatingly painful.

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has raised concerns with the Department of Health and Social Care about the situation. She plans to lobby the Government to allow everyone to get the vaccine from the age of 65

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has raised concerns with the Department of Health and Social Care about the situation. She plans to lobby the Government to allow everyone to get the vaccine from the age of 65

Andrea Darwin, 68, suffered an attack last year which she likened to ‘someone attacking me with a red-hot knife every day for weeks’. It was her second bout of shingles in less than five years – however, thanks to the restrictions she will have to wait another two years before she can have the vaccine.

‘If I got the jab then I might never have to go through that terrifying pain again,’ she says. ‘I was so happy when I saw the ad for the vaccine, but then I found out I couldn’t get it. It’s ludicrous.’

And Christine Farquhar, 66, was so worried about the risk of shingles she decided to pay £450 to get the vaccine privately after she was told she would have to wait until 2028 to have it on the NHS.

Like many readers, Christine likened the situation to the ‘Waspi Women’ scandal – the ladies born in the 1950s who had their state pension age increased from 60 to 65 in order to be equal to men but which left them out of pocket.

‘Each jab cost £225,’ she says. ‘I have already lost out on five years of state pension and free travel due to changes in Government policy. I am extremely annoyed.’

More than 50,000 elderly Britons develop shingles every year, and nearly one in four will suffer from it at some point in their life.

The Government in September announced it would begin offering the new shingles vaccine Shingrix. The previous jab, called Zostavax, reduced the risk of shingles by 50 per cent before waning. Shingrix is 90 per cent effective and provides lasting protection. However, the jab is in high demand across the globe, meaning the NHS has put a limit on the number of patients who could get it – which experts have told us is the primary reason for the decision to bar 66 to 69-year-olds from having it.

There are also no plans to allow patients who have already received Zostavax to be re-jabbed with the superior Shingrix because of the low supplies.

We have also heard from a concerning number of patients who have underlying health conditions which make them more susceptible to shingles but have still been told they cannot get the jab.

The new guidelines state that anyone over the age of 50 with a weakened immune system should get the shingles vaccine.

But Russell Davison, 68, who has type 2 diabetes – which studies show raises the risk of shingles – has been told he will have to wait until he is 70 for the jab.

‘I have been excluded,’ he says. ‘It seems odd to deny it to an age group who embrace and understand the value of vaccines.’

Carole Lawrence, 80, says she has suffered four bouts of shingles since getting the Zostavax jab at the age of 70. ‘Every time it’s in a different place, my waist, shoulder, arm, leg, but not so far on my face,’ she adds. ‘I feel really rotten for ages. My experience shows that the old vaccine wasn’t very good.’

Experts claim that the NHS should consider offering the new vaccine to those who have already received Zostavax.

‘Since the protection from Zostavax only last about ten years, it would be logical to re-jab people after this point,’ says Prof Adam Finn, a vaccine expert at the University of Bristol and a Government vaccine adviser. ‘I can see why people in their 80s would want this new vaccine.’

Both the UK Health Security Agency and Ms Mordaunt have been approached for comment.

 The confusing rules at a glance

Anyone turning 65 will now be offered the new Shingrix jab – and will remain eligible for it until they are 80.

However, those who turned 65 before September 1, 2023, will have to wait until they are 70 for the vaccine.

And anyone aged between 70 and 80 who has not had the old Zostavax vaccine is also eligible to receive the Shingrix jab as part of a catch-up campaign.

The new shingles vaccine is available to people aged 50 or over who have a severely weakened immune system. This includes some people with blood cancer, HIV or AIDS, people who have recently had radiotherapy or chemotherapy and anyone who has recently had an organ transplant.

People aged 50 or over taking certain medicines that severely weaken the immune system can also get the shingles vaccine.

Penny MordauntNHS

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