Source: Toronto Star
The $200 vaccine against shingles is too expensive for many. Ontario should help seniors to pay for it.
To anyone who's suffered from it, the blistering rash known as shingles is one of life's most excruciating experiences.
Caused when the long dormant chickenpox virus reactivates, usually later in life, the red blisters can spread across the body and even creep into the eyes, resulting in blindness.
While not all cases have such tragic outcomes, for many shingles is so debilitating that it leads to months of treatment and expensive hospital care. With the exception of a vaccine that has been available for some five years, nothing can be done to avoid it.
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews would be wise to consider the cost of shingles treatment on the health care system and fund the herpes zoster vaccine for older Ontarians. Although expensive, it will save money and trauma in the long run.
Given the fact that the virus mostly affects seniors – Ontario's fast-growing demographic – it makes sense that the Ministry of Health prevent the illness among those most at risk.
As the Star's Nancy J. White reports, awareness of the vaccine is relatively low but the biggest impediment is the $200 fee that patients must pay. To some it may not seem like much money, but for many it's yet another drain on precious dollars.
If only to roll out the program as soon as possible, Matthews could decide on an age group that would best benefit from the shingles shot — perhaps those aged 60 and older. At least it's a start.
Indeed, the vaccine is recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization for people over 60, although it is also approved for those in their 50s. The lifetime risk for developing shingles is between 20 to 30 per cent, with a sharp increase after 60.
There are some complications to this readily available treatment. Right now, the vaccine must be kept frozen, which limits widespread distribution, but a new refrigerator-ready version could be available this year. In any case, this isn’t a good reason to avoid preventive measures.
Caledon's Shirley White made several trips to the emergency department before her case of shingles was diagnosed. On her third visit, 77-year-old White said she was "literally screaming. Very sharp pains going through me like fire."
As the boomer generation ages, more people will share White's experience. But government willing, there’s a powerful solution to head off that suffering.
Original article from: thestar.com