Study Finds Shingles Vaccine Effective, But Uptake Remains Low

Source: AAFP News Now


A new study indicates that although the herpes zoster vaccine is effective at preventing shingles and related complications, many people have not received the vaccine. The study involved more than 765,000 randomly selected Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 and older between 2007 and 2009 and found that vaccine uptake was only 3.9 percent. In addition, the shingles incidence rate was 5.4 per 1,000 person-years among those who had been vaccinated, compared to 10 per 1,000 person-years among unvaccinated individuals, for an overall vaccine effectiveness level of 48 percent. While the vaccine only had 37 percent effectiveness against incident herpes zoster among those with compromised immune systems, its effectiveness against postherpetic neuralgia was 59 percent. “Despite strong evidence supporting (the vaccine’s) effectiveness, clinical use remains disappointingly low, with particularly low vaccination rates in particular patient groups,” the authors wrote in PLoS Medicine. “This study shows that herpes zoster vaccination is associated with a reduction in PHN in routine clinical use. As PHN is the major complication of herpes zoster and is associated with highly significant morbidity and adverse impacts on quality of life, substantial efforts are needed to increase vaccine use in routine care of elderly individuals.”

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