Physician Attitudes Toward Herpes Zoster Vaccination Examined Over a Decade of Availability

Only 29% of 2016 survey respondents reported that they strongly agreed that the burden of herpes zoster in patients aged 50 to 59 years old is sufficient to make a vaccine important.

According to a recent study, physician attitudes toward herpes zoster disease and vaccination have changed over the years since the first vaccine became available in 2006.

To better understand healthcare providers’ perceptions and practices related to herpes zoster, study authors used data from surveys that were administered by the University of Colorado Denver’s Vaccine Policy Collaborative Initiative and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to primary care physicians in 2005, 2008 (the year the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [ACIP] recommended herpes zoster vaccination to adults ≥60 years old), and 2016.  

“We compared responses to questions included in the 2016 survey to responses to those same questions in either the 2005 or 2008 survey, depending on when they were asked,” the authors explained. “We used chi-square tests to assess statistically significant differences in overall distribution of responses.”

Results of the study showed the following:

  • 59.8% of surveyed physicians in 2016 strongly agreed that herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia cause significant burden of disease in older patients, compared with 35.1% in 2005 
  • 68.0% of physicians in the 2016 survey strongly agreed that the burden of herpes zoster and its complications in patients 60 to 79 years old was sufficient to make a vaccine important, compared with 34.0% in 2005 (only 28.6% of physicians surveyed in 2016 strongly agreed that the burden of herpes zoster in patients 50 to 59 years old was sufficient to make a vaccine important)
  • In 2016, 77.4% of surveyed physicians strongly recommended zoster vaccine to eligible patients ≥60 years, compared with 41.4% of physicians surveyed in 2008
  • While a similar percentage of surveyed physicians reported stocking the vaccine in their offices in 2016 and 2008, a significantly greater number of physicians in 2016 reported that they had stopped administering the vaccine as a result of cost and reimbursement issues (21.0% in 2016 vs 12.2% in 2008; P=.0003)
  • Physicians were also more likely to refer patients to pharmacies to purchase and receive the vaccine in 2016 than in 2008 (76.9% vs 32.6%; P<.0001) 
  • When asked about barriers to vaccination, patient cost remained the biggest barrier while concerns related to safety and efficacy appeared to have diminished over the years 

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“Overall, physician attitudes appear to be more favorable towards zoster vaccination after a decade of availability of a [herpes zoster] vaccine,” the authors concluded. They added that “With the new vaccine now licensed and recommended for adults aged 50 and older, additional education may be needed to promote vaccination in this younger age group which also has significant burden of disease.”

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This article originally appeared on MPR