Shingles vaccination rates among older adults have risen from 2008-2011, but a recent study has shown that the overall rate of vaccination against shingles is still relatively low overall. The shingles vaccine has been in circulation since its approval in 2006, and is recommended for all adults aged 60 and over to help prevent shingles. The FDA has recently updated the recommended age for the vaccine to ages 50-59. Studies have shown that only 6.7% of adults had received the herpes zoster vaccine since 2008.
The study’s results were presented alongside the data collected during the study from the National Health Interview Survey at the 53rd Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. The study has indicated that throughout the years, the rate of adults that are vaccinated against shingles has been steadily increasing every year since the vaccine’s approval. In 2009, 10.1% of adults aged 60 and over had received the vaccine. Rates of vaccination were significantly lower for adults falling in the updated age bracket of 50-59. Only 2.4% of adults aged 50-59 had gotten vaccinated against shingles in 2009. The study also found that adults living above or at the poverty line were significantly more likely to have been vaccinated against shingles. Those living below the poverty line were less likely to have gotten this vaccine.
Pharmacies can compile literature that can educate older customers on the dangers of shingles. The pain of shingles can be crippling, and is called postherpetic neuralgia, also known as PHN. PHN can last for months, or in some cases years. Other symptoms of shingles may have more severe complications. If shingles sores are near the eyes and left untreated, they may cause blindness. In rare cases, the bacteria from shingles may cause necrotizing fasciitis, a skin disease that destroys soft tissue under the epidermal layer of skin. If a patient already has a compromised immune system, the rash and sores associated with shingles may be more severe than someone who has a high functioning immune system. PHN is often the shingles symptom that many elderly adults say is most damaging. The pain is described as throbbing or stabbing, and patients are often left unable to have even light clothing against their skin. Pharmacists should provide consultation and information regarding the many symptoms of shingles.
Though the rates of vaccination against shingles are on the rise for adults age 60 and over, pharmacists should make patients ages 50 and up aware of the new FDA recommendation to vaccinate against shingles if a patient is over the age of 50. Through education and raising awareness levels, pharmacists can help spread the word about the shingles vaccine in their community. Providing literature, consultation, and information that patients can take home and read at their leisure is helpful. Pharmacists should be able to answer a variety of concerns regarding the safety of the shingles vaccine, and any side effects that may occur. The side effects are mild, and the most often reported are chicken pox-like spots around the injection site. Patients who have compromised immune systems should not be administered the shingles vaccine. Using these tips and information, pharmacists can do their part to raise vaccination levels against the shingles virus.