The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is now providing reimbursement for the Shingrix® shingles vaccine, making it the first health jurisdiction in the country to do so.
Effective immediately, First Nations Health Benefits will accept client reimbursement requests (get the FNHA reimbursement form here) for vaccinations with the Shingrix® vaccine received on or after Oct. 1, 2018 by First Nations clients age 65 to 69.
Shingles – the common name for herpes zoster – is a painful blistering rash caused by a re-activation of the varicella-zoster virus. The pain of shingles can persist for weeks, months, or even longer after the rash has healed. Shingles can occur in anyone who has had chickenpox, however it is more common – and more likely to cause complications and long term effects– in older people.
"Shingles can be extremely painful and it is preventable. When it happens, treatment requires immediate medical care and antiviral drugs. Many First Nations clients live in remote areas where it's difficult to get this quick treatment," said Dr. Evan Adams, the FNHA's Chief Medical Officer. "We also know that there are cultural safety issues with some of our Elders that impede them from seeking the urgent response this condition requires."
Dr. Adams said that the FNHA has had ongoing conversations with Chiefs, Health Directors and other First Nations health leaders and the request for coverage of a shingles vaccine has been an important and recurring part of these discussions in order to protect the health of Elders.
"We are pleased we can respond to this feedback now that there is a vaccine that has a high rate of effectiveness," he said. "Shingrix® has a 90 per cent effectiveness rate."
The vaccine may be administered by a pharmacist, community health nurse or physician. It requires two doses to be fully effective. The 65 to 69-year-old age group was selected for the benefit coverage because the vaccine has a high impact on this age group. People in this age group are more likely to get shingles and to have higher rates of hospitalization from it. Requests for coverage of the vaccine for those outside the 65 to 69-year-old age group will be considered if submitted with medical documentation from a primary care provider to support the request.
Clients with any questions about this or any other aspect of the coverage are encouraged to contact First Nations Health Benefits at 1-855-550-5454.