PEOPLE turning 70 are being encouraged to protect themselves against shingles with a free vaccine.
It comes as only half of all eligible 70-year-olds in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas had been vaccinated against shingles in August last year.
In Portsmouth and Havant, 52 per cent of people were vaccinated with 54 per cent of people vaccinated in Gosport and Fareham.
The average for the Wessex area is 48 per cent.
Dr Linda Collie, the clinical lead for Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘We would encourage all eligible people to book an appointment with their GP practice for their free shingles vaccination.
‘Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. Most people have chickenpox as children, but the infection lays dormant in the nervous system, even after recovery from the illness.
‘It can reactivate later in life when the immune system is weakened to cause shingles.’
Shingles is a very itchy and burning group of blisters.
It can be very painful and debilitating and because it reactivates in the nervous system, it can lead to nerve pain and other health problems.
People in their 70s remain eligible for the vaccine until their 80th birthday.