People aged 50 and over are invited to take part in research looking at giving a shingles vaccine combined with the COVID-19 or flu vaccine.

Clinicians supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) are testing the safety and immune responses of giving the shingles vaccine at the same time as the flu or COVID-19 vaccine.

One in three people will get shingles in their lifetime. It occurs when an old chickenpox infection is reactivated and causes a painful rash.

In the UK, a shingles vaccine is currently offered to people when they reach the age of 65. Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are also offered to people in this age group.

If the shingles vaccine could be combined with the flu or COVID-19 vaccine it would save having to make several trips to see the GP and might be more effective.

Dr Chris Holroyd, Consultant Rheumatologist at University Hospital Southampton, said: “Older people are offered an ever-increasing number of vaccines to help prevent different infections.

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“We are really keen to find ways to combine these vaccines to make it easier for people to take up these offers and reduce their risk of certain infections.”

The ‘ZosterFluCov’ study is running in the Southampton Research Hub and the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility.

Symptoms of shingles include a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin, a headache or feeling unwell, and a rash which may develop into itchy blisters.

Some people have pain at the site of the infection that can go on for many years and is difficult to treat.

The vaccine stops most people from getting shingles but those that do have a milder and shorter illness.

Clare Tull, 58, from Romsey, is taking part in the study at Southampton Research Hub.

She said: “My father is 85 and frail - so I wanted to take part to help protect him.

“Taking part benefits my whole family - we’ve lost loved ones to Covid-19 and so we like to be really involved in vaccines and immunisations. We understand the importance of research.”