Shingles vaccine largely ignored

Although a vaccine for shingles has been available since 2006, a report released by the New York TImes said many people aren’t getting the vaccine.

Shingles and its complication - postherpetic neuralgia - result from reactivation of the chicken pox virus, which stays in the body following  childhood infection and usually remains dormant in adults, according to the report.

Researchers have concluded that at least a third of all adults who have had chicken pox will eventually develop one or both of these conditions, according to the report. That percentage translates into about one million Americans affected each year.

Last month, researchers from the University of Colorado in Denver and the C.D.C. surveyed almost 600 primary care physicians and found that fewer than half strongly recommended the shingles vaccine.

According to the study, doctors weren’t so much concerned with the safety of the vaccine, but with the cost to patients. The vaccination costs $160 to $195 per dose, 10 times more than other commonly prescribed adult vaccines, according to officials.

“It’s just a shot, not a pap smear or a colonoscopy,” Dr. Laura P. Hurley, lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver, told the New York Times. “But the fact is that it is an expensive burden for all patients, even those with private insurance and Medicare because it is not always fully reimbursed.”

Hurley concluded that the issue of shingles vaccination is one of disparity.

“It’s great that this vaccine was developed and could potentially prevent a very severe disease,” she said. “But we have to have a reimbursement process that coincides with these interventions. Just making these vaccines doesn’t mean that they will have a public health impact.”