Zoster vaccine effective but underused in elderly

May 7, 2013

Zoster vaccination was associated with a reduction in post-herpetic neuralgia among those who are aged 65 and older, according to a study, published in PLoS Medicine. However, they also found that the use of the shingles vaccine was also very low among certain population groups

 

Zoster vaccination was associated with a reduction in post-herpetic neuralgia among those who are aged 65 and older, according to a study, published in PLoS Medicine. However, they also found that the use of the shingles vaccine was also very low among certain population groups.

Sinéad M.Langan, MD, with the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and colleagues conducted a cohort study of more 766,330 individuals aged 65 years and older in a 5% random sample of Medicare. The study looked both at patients who received and did not receive the zoster vaccination between January, 2007, and December, 2009.

They found that the vaccine’s effectiveness against post-herpetic neuralgia was 59% and the vaccine reduced the incidence of shingles by 48%. The zoster vaccine’s effectiveness against incident shingles among immunosuppressed individuals was lower (37%).

However, researchers noted that the use of the zoster vaccine was particularly low among black people (0.6%) and low-income individuals, at a rate of 0.3%.

“These findings show that shingles vaccine uptake is low among elderly people in the U.S. and varies between different patient groups. They show that shingles vaccination is effective against incident shingles in a general population of older individuals, including those who are immunosuppressed, and suggest that shingles vaccination is effective against post-herpetic neuralgia,” the researchers wrote.

The findings highlight the need to increase shingles vaccination among elderly individuals in the United States, the section of the population at the highest risk for post-herpetic neuralgia, they added.