Shingles vaccine reduces postherpetic neuralgia and herpes zoster

The shingles vaccine is associated with reduction in postherpetic neuralgia and herpes zoster, though uptake of the vaccine in the U.S. is low, according to a recent study published in PLOS Medicine.

The study, which was led by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that while the vaccine to prevent shingles may reduce the painful skin infection and nerve infection by half in people over age 65, the uptake of the vaccine is only 3.9 percent in the U.S. The researchers examined the records of 766,440 Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 or older between 2007 and 2009.

The authors of the study found the vaccine reduced the rate of shingles by 48 percent, though it was less effective in older adults with impaired immune systems. The vaccine was 59 percent effective against postherpetic neuralgia.

"Herpes zoster vaccination was associated with a significant reduction in incident herpes zoster and (postherpetic neuralgia) in routine clinical use," the authors said. "Despite strong evidence supporting its effectiveness, clinical use remains disappointingly low with particularly low vaccination rates in particular patient groups."

The vaccination rate was especially low among people with a low income at 0.6 percent and among black people at 0.3 percent.

"The findings are relevant beyond U.S. medical practice, being of major importance to the many countries, including the U.K., that are actively considering introducing the zoster vaccine into routine practice in the near future," the authors said.