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Shingles isn’t a nationwide epidemic, but this usually containable virus yields around 1 million cases every year. One out of three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. Although the rash usually clears after treatment, it can sometimes leave behind an excruciating pain called postherpetic neuralgia.
Zostavax first emerged as a preventative vaccine for shingles in 2006. However, its efficacy proved to be 50-64%.
In October 2017, Shingrix received the FDA’s approval as a preventative measure for shingles. A few months later, the CDC officially recommended the Shingrix vaccine to adults 50 and older.
Shingrix arrived as a welcome change because it addresses the disadvantages of the existing shingles vaccination. Zostavax, for example, is manufactured with a live varicella-zoster virus, which is unsafe for people with compromised immune systems. Zostavax’s efficacy has also been proven to decrease in recipients 70 or older. On the other hand, Shingrix contains an inactive virus, making it safe for nearly anyone to receive, and it continued to be effective in those over 70. Overall, Shingrix is 97% effective at preventing shingles.
The only perceivable downside to Shingrix is that it is a multi-dose vaccination; after the first vaccination, the second must be administered within two to six months. This may be problematic for providers who do not carefully monitor their patients’ immunization histories.
Fortunately, Care Plans are solving the problems that arise from communication gaps and undocumented treatment steps. These capabilities may be applied to the Shingrix administration process to ensure patients complete this essential therapy.
First, identify your patients who would most benefit from a shingles vaccine. Preventative therapies for shingles should typically begin around the age of 50, so compile a list of patients 50 and older who may need to be vaccinated.
Once you have collected a list of patients who may need the Shingrix vaccine, the next step is to engage the patient about their immunization schedules. Whether you choose to call each patient, or wait to strike up a conversation during their next pharmacy visit, it is important to have actionable steps ready to guide you and document the progression.
With the right technology and medicine readily available, community pharmacists are well-equipped at ensuring their patients have a chance at avoiding shingles.