Herpes zoster vaccination was shown to reduce the risk of developing shingles by more than half in one recent study, while another investigation revealed that use of the vaccine is low among patients aged 60 years and older.

A retrospective cohort analysis focused on immunocompetent persons aged 60 years and older who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan from 2007 through 2009. The researchers learned that herpes zoster vaccination was associated with a 55% decreased risk across all age strata in the study population and even among persons with chronic diseases (JAMA. 2011;305:160-166).

But another study indicates that by 2008, only 6.7% of adults aged 60 years and older who took part in the National Health Interview Survey reported being vaccinated against the herpes zoster virus (Am J Prev Med. 2011;40:e1-e6).

A third study drove home the importance of shingles vaccination with its discovery that shingles can recur, defying the commonly held belief that patients are protected from the herpes zoster virus after a first bout (Mayo Clin Proc. 2011;86:88-93). Over the course of 12 years, 105 recurrences of herpes zoster were seen in 95 of 1,669 persons. The virus was most likely to strike again in persons with zoster-associated pain of 30 days or longer at the initial episode.

The FDA recently approved once-daily Gralise (gabapentin) tablets for the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia in persons healing from the shingles rash.