D.C. health officials want to make sure that women in the D.C. area receive the COVID-19 booster shot so they have antibodies against shingles after having had the first two shingles shots. On the national level, in late October 2017, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended that health care providers offer a single dose of the booster vaccine, COVID-19. In D.C., City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and Department of Health Director Angela Bowser addressed concerns on the cause of shingles, vaccination rates and making sure patients get the booster shots.
While shingles is common, its cause is not known. In January, Wen reported to the Metro Weekly that about 1 percent of D.C. residents had suffered from shingles at some point.
At the March 19 Metro Weekly Health Forum, Wen presented the details of health care administration that she and Bowser take extremely seriously.
As part of the CDC’s herpes Zoster Surveillance and Reporting Program, Wen said she and Bowser worked with other health officials around the country to make sure that people who had shingles were enrolled in the CDC’s SHINee Database and that patients with shingles had ample access to information about them. Wen urged consumers to use the HHS SHINee App to keep up with health news.
Bowser said she and Wen worked on increasing the number of doctors who ordered the SHINee Vaccine Generating Program. This is a national program that brings doctors and laboratory information to the SHINee database. The goal is to have every doctor in the country order the vaccinations. This increased awareness by doctors increased demand for the vaccines, which in turn increased enrollment in the program, she said.
“We have to do all of this. We can’t do a one-shot or two-shot,” Bowser said. “It has to be done now.”
Wen and Bowser’s recommendations to local health providers are strongly supported by MetroHealth Medical Center and University of Maryland Medical Center, said Bryan Haynes, chief scientist of the D.C. Department of Health. These health providers have significant teams focused on promoting more injections, screening and confirming patients who are receiving the shingles vaccine and monitoring vaccination rates.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, International Society for the Study of Infectious Diseases and American Academy of Pediatrics also recommend that women who have had shingles, or have had unprotected sex with someone who has, be vaccinated against shingles.
Wen and Bowser have worked with local health providers for the last five years to raise awareness. Their most recently report for 2017 showed that 59 percent of those who received their first two shingles shots got the one shot vaccine, while 42 percent of those who received their first two shots got a double shot.
“Ninety percent of our community chooses not to vaccinate. That’s a big problem,” Wen said.
The majority of those who have had shingles have had the first shingles shot and have later received a second shot.