05/10/2010 - News

Financial Barriers Limit Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccine

By: June Chen, MD


Although the herpes zoster vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing herpes zoster infection and the painful complication of postherpetic neuralgia, the herpes zoster vaccine is not routinely administered to older adults who are at increased risk for herpes zoster and its complications. In the May 4, 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, investigators report that barriers, particularly financial barriers, hamper the efforts of physicians to provide the herpes zoster vaccine to their patients.

Researchers from the University of Colorado, Denver and their colleagues sought to assess current herpes zoster vaccination practices and barriers to vaccination among internists and family medicine physicians. They conducted a national survey from July to September 2008 and found that only 49% of survey respondents stocked or administered the herpes zoster  vaccine in their offices. Of these physicians, 12% stopped administering the herpes zoster vaccine due to its high cost and issues with reimbursement. Thirty-six percent of survey respondents indicated that they referred patients to a pharmacy to purchase the herpes zoster vaccine and then bring the vaccine back to the office for administration, and 33% referred their patients to a pharmacy for administration of the herpes zoster vaccine.

Although 88% of survey respondents recommended the herpes zoster vaccine and 41% strongly recommended it, the physicians indicated that the most frequent barrier to herpes zoster vaccination was financial. Only 45% of those surveyed were aware that the herpes zoster vaccine is the first vaccine to be reimbursed through Medicare Part D. Based on their findings, the study authors suggest that increasing efforts to finance the herpes zoster vaccine might help in increasing its use among internists and family practitioners.



Ann Intern Med 2010; 152(9): 555-560.


Created on: 05/10/2010
Reviewed on: 05/10/2010

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