JACK Straw has urged people aged 70 and over to take up the free NHS vaccination against shingles after a nasty bout of the virus himself while on holiday.

The 67-year-old Blackburn MP said: “It was very painful and unpleasant.

“It’s the only time in my life I have wished I was 70, “Anyone entitled to a free vaccination should have the injection.

“Shingles can kill and it can make people go blind if untreated.”

He advised constituents who have not suffered chickenpox to avoid his surgeries this weekend.

The NHS offers free vaccinations against shingles to those aged 70 and over with a catch-up programme for those aged 78 and 79 from next month.

It is conducting a campaign to encourage the take- up of the single jab.

People over 70 are more at risk of developing shingles and suffer more severe symptoms.

Around one in every 1,000 cases in adults over 70 become fatal from complications.

The condition is caused by the reactivation of a residual virus from earlier bouts of chickenpox caused by stress, medication or lowered immunity.

Symptoms include a rash turning into itchy blisters, pain and headaches, tingling and numbness, feeling generally unwell and a high temperature.

It only affects one side of the body and usually lasts two to four weeks.

Mr Straw said: “I was on holiday last week in Edinburgh and lost my watch in the car.

“I was rooting around on the driver’s side and hit my head on the steering column, almost knocking myself out. I went to casualty and found out I had shingles. I suffered bad headaches, blistering to my scalp and then round one of my eyes so I couldn’t see out of it. It is really nasty and quite difficult to identify.

“People, especially older people, should go to their GP if they think they have it as it can kill or make people blind. I really would urge the over-70s to have the free NHS vaccination.

“I’ve had to rewrite plans to see my grandson Matthew this weekend as he hasn’t had chickenpox and could catch it from me.”

The Zostavax vaccine, reduces the chances of developing the condition and ensures cases are milder and last for a shorter time.