A shingles vaccine for men and women over 60 years old is being underused in the United States. The vaccine reduces the risk of shingles, which is caused by the Herpes virus, varicella zoster. This virus causes the short-lived illness know as chickenpox. The virus remains in the body after chicken pox and can eventually cause shingles. Although it isn’t perfect, the vaccine reduces the likelihood that seniors with varicella zoster will be However, only 10% of those who are eligible have received the vaccine compared to rates over 60% for influenza and pneumonia vaccines.
The lackluster use of the drug is the result of many factors. The vaccine is quite expensive and coverage through Medicare is complex because doctors who give the injection are not reimbursed directly. Patients must pay the $200 fee and apply for reimbursement. In addition, the supply of the vaccine has been intermittent, so even interested patients maybe unable to obtain it. Finally, many eligible seniors may not know about the vaccine. These issues must be resolved so that thousands more cases of shingles can be avoided.