Shingles can be a painful and potentially debilitating condition – just ask newsreader Deborah Knight, who is 51.

“It started as searing pain in my lower back, and then a weird sensation on my face, around my mouth, it felt as though I had a hair there. Nothing there – then the blisters,” said Deborah.

“I live a really active lifestyle, so it was confronting to need my husband and son to help me stand up due to the pain.”

Shingles usually affects older people, and the risk of complications increases with age, particularly for people aged over 65, people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over and some people with weakened immune systems.

62% of people surveyed perceive the impact of this disease as “extremely negative”, while only 14% believe they are extremely likely to be personally at risk of shingles in their lifetime, according to research commissioned by GSK Australia.

In reality, about one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. Nearly all Australians over the age of 50 carry the inactive virus that causes shingles from a previous chickenpox infection.

Leading expert, Professor Tony Cunningham, Director of the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Sydney, suggests Australians over the age of 50 to consider their shingles risk and understand more about the disease.

The Department of Health and Aged Care announced in November last year the shingles vaccine Shingrix has replaced Zostavax on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for eligible people.

A two-dose course of Shingrix is available free for:

  • people aged 65 years and over,
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over, and
  • immunocompromised people aged 18 years and over with the following medical conditions: haemopoietic stem cell transplant, solid organ transplant, haematological malignancy (blood cancer) and advanced or untreated HIV.

Watch here.