About one-third of adults in the United States will deal with herpes zoster (HZ) at some point in their life, and the incidence might be even higher in underserved communities, according to a new study.

The report in Infectious Disease & Therapy points out that lack of access to healthcare and education, as well as higher rates of comorbid conditions, can make the situation especially difficult for some patients.

A study led by researchers from the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Wayne State University sought to investigate current knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices (KABP) about HZ and HZ vaccines in a large urban area.

The study team used a cross-sectional KABP survey, conducted with in-person interviews, in 381 participants and 50 years and older in Detroit from June to August 2018. For comparison, survey results were divided into two groups: younger than age 60 years and older than age 60 years. Of the 373 participants reporting their age, 110 were younger than age 60 years and 263 were older. 

Researchers report that, overall, the majority of participants reported having heard of HZ and HZ vaccines. They also determined that leading factors influencing participants’ willingness to receive the vaccine were:
• receiving a recommendation from a healthcare provider (37.5%)
• gaining a better understanding of HZ vaccine (36.7%)
• and knowing more about HZ itself (29.9%).

“Of note, 65.5% of participants <60 YO reported the belief that HZ is preventable versus only 53.2% in those ≥60 YO (p = 0.001),” the authors point out.

The study uncovers some gaps that could affect vaccination rates in underserved communities, the authors add, writing, “Our findings underscore the need to educate patients in underserved communities about HZ as well as new HZ vaccine recommendations to improve vaccination rates and reduce the incidence of HZ and its associated sequelae.”

The CDC recommends Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) as preferred over Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) for the prevention of HZ (shingles) and related complications. The CDC recommends two doses of Shingrix separated by 2 to 6 months for immunocompetent adults age 50 years and older.

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