Seniors snubbing shingles vaccine

A study conducted by the CDC and published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine has found that less than seven percent of U.S. seniors haven chosen to receive the shingles vaccine as of 2008.

The vaccine protects against the herpes zoster virus, known for causing the chicken pox at first infection. Because the body does not rid itself of the virus, it can come back as shingles decades later. Symptoms include fever, tingling, jabs of stabbing pains known as post-herpetic neuralgia, blisters and a skin rash, Health Behavior News Service reports.

The vaccine has been readily available since 2006. The study found that 95 percent of younger seniors have missed at least one vaccination opportunity. The most likely people to receive the vaccination were older, white, female seniors who had received a flu shot and were more highly educated.

The study's authors believe the numbers are low, in part, because while most insurance and Medicare plans cover vaccination costs, other costs might have to be upfront and out-of-pocket, according to Health Behavior News Service. If the patient has no insurance, this may lead the physician not to recommend the vaccine. Also, since the vaccine needs to be frozen until the last minute, a patient needs to buy the vaccine at a pharmacy and bring it back to the physicians office immediately.

Despite the drawbacks, the CDC still recommends seniors receive shingles vaccinations.

"Most patients who know what PHN is like would absolutely agree," Gary Euler, one of the study's co-authors and an epidemiologists with the CDC, said, according to Health Behavior News Service. "And in terms of cost savings for medical attention and medicine on a population-wide basis, so would most economists."

The vaccine reduces the chance of getting shingles by half and cuts the risk of developing painful complications by two-thirds.