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Hirono, Capito, Green, Bucshon Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Seniors’ Access to Shingles Vaccine

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Representatives Gene Green (D-Texas) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) introduced the Protecting Seniors through Immunization Act (or “Shingles Prevention Act”)—bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would eliminate Medicare Part D beneficiaries’ out of pocket costs for the shingles vaccine and raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated. One in three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime.

“Financial barriers shouldn’t keep our kupuna from accessing the shingles vaccine,” said Senator Hirono. “It’s critical that seniors in Hawaii and across the country can protect themselves against the shingles virus regardless of their ability to afford a vaccine.”

“In West Virginia and across the country, seniors face a greater risk of developing the shingles virus,” said Senator Capito. “The Protecting Seniors through Immunization Act will help keep West Virginia seniors healthy by making it easier for them to access and receive vaccinations that can prevent this painful disease.”

“Vaccines are the best use of our health care dollars, hands down,” said Representative Green. “While health insurance coverage for Americans of all ages has expanded significantly, too many adults still face significant cost-sharing requirements that can make vaccines unaffordable. This bill will help Medicare beneficiaries get access to the shingles vaccine, and is an important step towards improving vaccination rates overall.”

“Shingles is a painful disease that affects nearly 1 million Americans annually, with one out of three Americans developing shingles during their lifetime. However, the risk of getting shingles is significantly higher for individuals who are 50 years of age and older. In fact, according to the CDC, the number of adults developing shingles is on the rise. The great news is that seniors can protect themselves from shingles simply by receiving a vaccine. The bad news is that too few seniors receive the vaccine or don’t even know that it’s an option,” said Dr. Bucshon. “The CDC recommends that individuals 60 years of age and older get the shingles vaccine. Currently, most adult immunizations are covered by private insurance. However, once a senior enrolls in Medicare, it does not fully cover their out-of-pocket cost for immunizations. The Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act will make it easier for seniors to learn about and get the shingles vaccine, helping prevent needless suffering for millions of American seniors.”

“On behalf of more than 50 organizations representing vaccine manufacturers, medical providers, and public health officials, members of the Adult Vaccine Access Coalition (AVAC) are proud to endorse the Shingles Prevention Act and applauds the leadership of Senators Hirono and Capito, and Representatives Bucshon and Green,” said Laura Hanen, co-chair of AVAC. “This bipartisan bill would eliminate shingles vaccine costs for Medicare beneficiaries and ensure they receive important information about the benefits of immunization. Less than 30 percent of Americans over age 60 have received a shingles vaccines; this bill would give those numbers a much-needed boost.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that seniors over 60 receive the shingles vaccine. However, because of high out of pocket costs and other barriers to access, only about a quarter of seniors get vaccinated for the virus. The Protecting Seniors through Immunization Act provides the shingles vaccine free of charge for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, and improves outreach to these seniors on the importance of getting vaccinated while directing the Department of Health and Human Services to study to effectiveness of vaccines in the United States.

More than 50 organizations and companies support the legislation, including the Alliance for Aging Research, American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Pharmacists Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Dynavax, Every Child By Two, GSK, Hep B United, Hepatitis B Foundation, Immunization Action Coalition, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Merck, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, Pfizer, Sanofi, Scientific Technologies Corporation, Takeda Vaccines, Inc., and The Gerontological Society of America.