PASADENA, Calif. – People who received a vaccination for shingles (also known as herpes zoster) but still contracted shingles had a lower risk of developing post-herpetic neuralgia (or PHN), a potentially long lasting and painful complication of the condition. The Kaiser Permanente study was published today in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.
This study demonstrates that the shingles vaccine can still be beneficial in reducing the risk of long-term pain, even among those patients for whom it does not prevent the disease.
Shingles is a painful skin rash that affects one in three adults and is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. The most common complication of shingles is PHN, for which treatment for the pain may be necessary for months to years.
For this study, researchers reviewed the medical records of 2,400 Kaiser Permanente Southern California patients over 60 years of age who developed shingles after Jan. 1, 2007. One group of patients received the shingles vaccine, yet developed the condition. The other group of patients did not receive the vaccine.
Among the vaccinated patients who developed shingles, 4.2 percent of the women experienced PHN, compared to 10.4 percent of the unvaccinated women who developed shingles. In the group of vaccinated men who developed shingles, 6 percent experienced PHN compared to 5.8 percent of unvaccinated men who developed shingles. Researchers suggested that the gender-related differences may be due to the differences in how men and women seek care for chronic pain.
Our study found that the shingles vaccine has an added protective benefit of reducing the risk of PHN for a vaccinated individual who still experiences shingles, said Hung Fu Tseng, PhD, MPH, study lead author, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. This further confirms the importance of shingles vaccination for adults over age 60.
As patients get older, the pain associated with PHN is likely to be more severe and may lead to depression, fatigue, insomnia, altered activities of daily living and decreased socialization. The estimated annual cost for direct medical care related to shingles is $1 billion in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [i]
In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved the shingles vaccine and subsequently the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices recommended the vaccine for people 60 years or older. Despite that, vaccination rates remain low.
Hopefully, this study will encourage more people to get vaccinated in order to reduce the long-term pain and potential disability associated with shingles, Dr. Tseng said.
The study was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additional authors on the study include Lina S. Sy, MPH, Yi Luo, MS, Steven Jacobsen, MD, PhD, Sean Anand, MD, and Sara Tartof, PhD, with the Department of Research & Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena; Bruno Lewin, MD, Po-yin Huang, MD, and Jennifer Chang, MD, with the Department of Family Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Los Angeles Medical Center; Kavya Reddy, MD, Jeff Zhang, MD, and Erin Mary Bauer, MD, with the Department of Internal Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Los Angeles Medical Center; and Craig Hales, MD, MS, Rafael Harpaz, MD, MPH, and Stephanie Bialek, MD, MPH, with Division of Viral Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta..
About the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation
The Department of Research & Evaluation conducts high-quality, innovative research into disease etiology, prevention, treatment and care delivery. Investigators conduct epidemiology, health sciences and behavioral research as well as clinical trials. Areas of interest include diabetes and obesity, cancer, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease, aging and cognition, pregnancy outcomes, women’s and children’s health, quality and safety, and pharmacoepidemiology. Located in Pasadena, California, the department focuses on translating research to practice quickly to benefit the health and lives of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members and the general population. Visit kp.org/research.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 10 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.