Costly Obstacles to Shingles Vaccine

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The New York Times discussed an Annals of Internal Medicine study investigating the main reasons why only 10 percent of Americans eligible for the shingles vaccine which the Centers for Disease Control recommends for everyone over the age of 60 -- actually get it. Over 1 million Americans are at risk of contracting shingles each year; however, the cost of receiving the vaccine the only preventive measure available against the disease poses a substantial burden. While shingles is a usually-mild reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox, a significant fraction also develop what is known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PNH), which induces substantial pain that can last weeks or months.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is concerned that so many older Americans do not opt for the vaccine. It is indeed disturbing that some people decide not to take advantage of something that can prevent the pain associated with PHN. Sure, it is expensive, but the ongoing pain is an absolute misery. ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross acknowledges that the complexities associated with the costs and reimbursement practices are very confusing, even for practitioners unnecessarily so. However, the painful complications experienced by many shingles patients are devastating, so it is well worthwhile to get the vaccine.

The vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but it reduces the risk of shingles by 50 percent and that of PNH by two-thirds, says Dr. Ross.

Be sure to read ACSH s publication on adult vaccines for more information.