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Pharmacy-based herpes zoster vaccinations boost rates, are more cost-effective
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Pharmacy-based herpes zoster vaccinations boost rates, are more cost-effective

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Herpes Zoster Vaccine

Pharmacist administering a vaccination to a patient

Jonathan Little, PharmD

Health benefits of the herpes zoster vaccine are well-documented, but lesser known are the economic impacts of a community pharmacy–based herpes zoster vaccination service in the United States.

According to findings of a research study published May 16, 2023, in JAPhA, 11,586 additional individuals were vaccinated for herpes zoster compared to a hypothetical scenario without community pharmacy–based vaccination services. The modeling study revealed that 706 cases of shingles were averted as well as 143 cases of postherpetic neuralgia, an unfortunate and serious consequence of shingles.

“Our study showed that community pharmacy–based herpes zoster vaccination was less costly (–$131,894), gained more quality-adjusted life years (52.5), and was associated with improved other clinical outcomes in the state of Utah,” said lead author Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk, PharmD, PhD, professor at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy.

Chaiyakunapruk said their goal for the research was to create a model that could be used to address access and underutilization of vaccines and hopefully incentivize new initiatives to improve access to vaccines through community pharmacy services.

“There remains a strong need to assess the economic impact of other community pharmacy–based vaccination programs,” said Chaiyakunapruk.

Broader implications

The researchers analyzed data from patients ages 50 years and older who were eligible for herpes zoster vaccination in Utah between 2010 and 2020, a cohort of 853,550 people. A comparison was then made between community pharmacy–based vaccination and a hypothetical scenario in which no community pharmacy–based vaccination programs were available.

Not only shingles, but also postherpetic neuralgia was shown to be averted through the modeling of the study.

The findings support the positive impact of pharmacist involvement in vaccination programs on both clinical and economic outcomes, according to Chaiyakunapruk. He said the key strength of the study is that it’s the first to demonstrate public health and economic benefits of community pharmacy–based vaccination strategy in the United States.

The major limitation of the study is that it’s only specific to the state of Utah. “Further research in other states or nationwide is needed,” said Chaiyakunapruk. “The estimated effect of pharmacists on the vaccine uptake used in this model was based on an observational study assessing changes in influenza vaccination rates. Despite not being the best estimate, it can still be justified as reasonable considering the lack of research on the impact of pharmacists on the rate of herpes zoster vaccination.”

Although the research focused on herpes zoster in particular, pharmacists are able to similarly make recommendations for several other vaccines.

Pharmacists, patients, policymakers

Overall, findings from the study confirm the vital role of pharmacists by demonstrating the potential public health benefits of community pharmacy–based herpes zoster vaccination programs.

Other researchers may find this model and findings helpful as evidence to build upon for future evaluations of other community pharmacy–based vaccination programs, according to Chaiyakunapruk. He believes the findings are relevant to pharmacists, patients, and policymakers alike. ■



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