Aging Parents, Aging Boomers, Shingles Vaccinations

Shingles is an illness we all need to think about — aging parents, adult children, and anyone who is approaching a 60th birthday.

In yesterday’s New York Times Health section (June 10, 2010), Dr. Pauline Chen writes about the expense of the shingles vaccine and how the cost has contributed to a low number of people age 60 and older receiving the shot — perhaps below 10 percent of the eligible population. In her article, Why Patients Aren’t Getting the Shingles Vaccine, she reports on a survey of 600 physicians and interviews other doctors who explain difficulties of insurance reimbursement. According to the article’s abstract, “Of respondents who began administering herpes zoster vaccine in their office, 12% stopped because of cost and reimbursement issues.” Dr. Chen explains how seniors must pay for the shot–it can cost up to $195–and seek reimbursement afterwards. Medicare reimburses the vaccination as a prescription drug under Part D rather than as an immunization. This abstract describes the survey and the article appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

After you read the article, read some of the contributions to the lively discussion taking place at the Well Health Blog. Tara Parker Pope joins in the conversation several times with additional information, and she also corrects a number of  misunderstandings about the vaccination.

A few years ago my mother was so sick that she could barely get out of bed. At various times she went back and forth between home and the emergency department. She was admitted once. After two weeks of this — we thought she was dying — the telltale rash finally appeared. I will never forget her agony, so I plan to get the singles shot as soon as I turn 60. In terms of reimbursement, I’ll budget for it.

No one needs to get sick with shingles.

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