Columnist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter is encouraging those eligible across the nation to get vaccinated against shingles after she contracted the ‘debilitating’ virus twice.
There is a one in four lifetime risk of becoming ill with shingles, which increases with age and in those with a weakened immune system, though Street-Porter, 76, became ill with the virus in her 40s and 50s.
Together with Eamonn Holmes, the media personality has teamed up with GSK and their Get Shingles Ready campaign, to raise awareness and highlight the expansion of the Shingles National Immunisation programme.
In addition to those aged 70-79 who were already eligible, those turning 65 on or after 1 September 2023 and those 50 and over with a severely weakened immune system now qualify for free shingles vaccinations on the NHS.
“I had chickenpox as a child, but I was healthy,” Street-Porter said. “I had not had any major illnesses in my life.
“All my injuries have been to do with being fit & exercising, shingles is something that you can’t see and as you get older you are more vulnerable to it and people are just not aware of it.
“They are not aware of both the debilitating effect it actually has when you get it but also the residual nerve pain that some people get, it can go on for months and months.
“The first time I managed to carry on work, but I couldn’t concentrate, I don’t know how I read out autocue or anything like that.”
The shingles virus remains dormant in the body for life after a person contracts chickenpox, usually in childhood.
It can become reactivated in any person who has had chickenpox previously, as Street-Porter found while leading an active and busy lifestyle in her mid-40s.
A 2022 survey revealed 36% of people did not know that anyone who has had chickenpox could develop shingles in later life, and Street-Porter is on a mission to tackle the lack of awareness around the virus.
“The reason why I decided to team up with GSK to promote this campaign is that I think if the NHS are offering the shingles vaccine to more people, anyone who is eligible should sign up for its ASAP.
“Why put yourself at risk of getting something that will make your life a complete misery?”
The 2022 survey also revealed almost half (48%) of participants incorrectly believed that shingles can be caught from person to person.
Street-Porter hopes to encourage the nation to lead healthier lives by protecting themselves through vaccination.
“You don’t want to scare the living daylights out of people, but you want to tell them that shingles isn’t just a rash and a few scabs that go,” she added.
“When shingles has disappeared from the outside of your body, it can be the inflammation of the nerves that no one can see, and it does affect you mentally and it is totally debilitating.”
Get Shingles Ready is a campaign by GSK supported by Eamonn Holmes and Janet Street-Porter. For more information visit getshinglesready.co.uk