Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus. Varicella zoster is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Following initial infection, usually in childhood, the virus can lie inactive in the body’s nervous system. Reactivation of the virus can take place later in life, when the immune system has been weakened by:
- immunosuppressant treatments such as for cancer
Shingles is characterised by a painful skin rash.
The main complication from shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a long lasting neuropathic pain after the rash has disappeared. PHN can persist for months or years and the risk and severity increases with age. Its effect can be very debilitating.
More information on shingles can be found on the NHS inform website.
- For more information on shingles immunisation, including updates, please refer to the Public Health England (PHE) Green book, chapter 28a.
- To view a letter from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) outlining the 2017 to 2018 shingles vaccination programme, visit the Scottish Executive Health Department (SEHD) website.
- Training slides and educational materials relating to shingles are available on the NHS Education for Scotland (NES) website.
- View our screening tool for contraindications for shingles vaccine document.
For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.
Screening tool for contraindications for shingles vaccine
Shingles vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine and therefore some patient groups are contraindicated and unable to receive the vaccine.
The screening tool for contraindications for shingles vaccine may be used to aid identification of patients who are excluded from having it and includes explanatory notes for healthcare practitioners. The questions in the screening tool are designed to be completed by either the patient or the healthcare practitioner in a structured interview with the patient.
Shingles vaccine programme annual reports
Read our shingles vaccine programme annual reports below:
Data and surveillance
Surveillance update for 2018
Scottish Morbidity Record 01 (SMR01) is a national dataset held by the NHS Information Services Division (ISD) and provides data on admissions to General Acute Inpatient and Day Case. It is used to investigate the burden of disease on hospital inpatient and day case discharges from acute specialties from hospitals in Scotland. Figure 1 presents admission rate per 100,000 by year by age group showing the increased burden of disease with increasing age.
An aggregated dataset is received quarterly from approximately 50% of GP practices in Scotland on consultations for shingles and related complications. Figure 2 presents the number of consultations for shingles by year and age group which shows the burden of disease in primary care.
Figure 3 presents the consultation rate per 1000 of the population for shingles by year broken down by age groups showing that incidence rate increases with age.
In September 2013, a national shingles vaccination programme was introduced using Zostavax®. As Zostavax® is a live attenuated vaccine, it can't be given to patients who've a known primary or acquired immunodeficiency state, or patients who are receiving current immunosuppressive therapy including:
- high-dose corticosteroids
- biological therapies
- combination therapies
For full details, visit Public Health England and the green book, chapter 28a.
The vaccine is offered routinely to those aged 70 years with a catch up programme up to and including age 79 years.
Table 1 presents the Shingles vaccine uptake figures for the 2018 to 2019 programme by NHS board and Scotland for those aged 70 and 76 years old with data until the end of December 2018.
Vaccine coverage is lower in those aged 70 years than in previous seasons, however there has been a slight increase in those aged 76 years compared to the 2017 to 2018 programme.