A new and more effective vaccine for the painful virus Shingles will be available for nearly 67,000 older residents of the Illawarra next month.
From 1 November, Australians most at risk of severe disease will get free access to the Shingrix vaccine, following a $826.8 million investment from the government.
Those eligible include everyone aged 65 years and over, First Nations people 50 years and over, and immunocompromised people 18 years and over at high risk of herpes zoster infection.
The vaccine, which replaces an older vaccine called Zostavax, provides around 10 years of protection.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said one in three Australians would get shingles in their lifetime without vaccination.
"This investment will ensure nearly five million Australians can get free protection from shingles and the very painful nerve damage that it causes," he said.
"Shingles can be severe, so it's really important that eligible people talk to their GP or pharmacist about getting the shingles vaccine."
Shingles is caused by reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox and presents as a painful blistering rash on one side of the face or body that lasts 10-15 days.
About one in 5 people with shingles will develop severe nerve pain known as post-herpetic neuralgia that can last months or even years.
The risk of developing shingles increases with age and people aged over 65 are at the highest risk of complications like post-herpetic neuralgia.
Whitlam MP Stephen Jones said the vaccine program would help thousands of Illawarra residents.
"A Shingrix® vaccine would usually cost up to $560, and now nearly 67,000 locals are going to be able to receive this shingles protection free of charge," he said.
Cunningham MP Alison Byrnes urged people to speak to their doctor to get "protection and peace of mind."
"Everyone aged 65 years and over, First Nations people 50 years and over, and immunocompromised people 18 years and over at high risk of herpes zoster infection are eligible and can talk to their local GP or pharmacist about getting the vaccine," she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.