Shingles Vaccination Rates Improve, But Not Enough

Aimee Simone, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
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A new study finds that the portion of adults aged 60 and older who were vaccinated against shingles increased from 6.7% in 2008 to 15.8% in 2011.

Rates of vaccination against shingles increased significantly among older adults in the United States between 2008 and 2011, according to the results of a new study, but coverage rates remain relatively low.
First approved in 2006, the shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine is recommended for all adults aged 60 and older to prevent shingles, the painful condition that results from the varicella-zoster virus that remains dormant in patients after infection with chicken pox (varicella). In 2011, the FDA updated the indication of the vaccine to include adults aged 50 to 59. A previous study found that only 6.7% of adults aged 60 and older had received the herpes zoster vaccine as of 2008.
To determine how coverage rates have changed since 2008, the current study, presented on September 11, 2013, at the 53rd Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey. The analysis included survey participants aged 50 and older who answered questions relating to herpes zoster vaccination between 2008 and 2011. The researchers compared annual vaccination rates from 2009, 2010, and 2011 to 2008, completing separate analyses for patients aged 50 to 59 and for those aged 60 and older.
The results indicated that herpes zoster vaccination rates significantly increased among individuals aged 60 and older from 6.7% in 2008, to 10.1% in 2009, 14.2% in 2010, and 15.8% in 2011. The researchers also found that certain populations were more likely to be vaccinated than others. Those at or above the poverty line were more likely to be vaccinated than those below the poverty line, women were more likely to receive the vaccine than men, whites were more likely to be vaccinated than non-whites, and married adults were more likely to be vaccinated than single adults. High school graduates, those from the South and the West, those with health insurance, and those aged 65 to 74 and aged 85 and older were also more likely to be vaccinated.
Coverage rates were much lower among individuals aged 50 to 59 and did not increase as much among this group during the period covered by the study. In 2008, 2.9% of adults in this age group had been vaccinated, falling to 2.4% in 2009, and increasing to 3.9% in 2010 and 4.3% in 2011.
The authors of the study noted that, although progress has been made, coverage with the herpes zoster vaccine remains low among both age groups. Shingles is associated with at least $1 billion in health care expenses each year, and the researchers suggest that health care professionals should aim to increase vaccination coverage among the populations with the lowest coverage rates.

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