Demand for shingles shot outstrips supply

Local News

It’s not the opening of a new restaurant, retail store or new video game, but it is in such high demand that people are getting added to waiting lists to get it.

What they’re after — is the shingles vaccine — which is in short supply.

First of all — what is shingles?

It appears as a rash and comes with pain.

Dr. Robert Ruggieri, founder and medical director of Island Urgent Care, says some people have very mild symptoms and don’t realize they have shingles. 

Others are not so lucky.

“Some people have a great deal of pain with shingles and after a week or two, it goes away, and there are a small subset of people who have chronic pain from shingles even after the rash goes away, so you don’t want to be in that subset.”

There are two shingles vaccines — Zostavax, rated as 51% effective for prevention.

Shingrix is rated 91% effective — and that is the one in short supply. 

Two shots, six months apart, are needed for full effectiveness. 

Consumers worry they won’t be able to get their second shot within that time-frame.

Dr. Ruggieri says not to worry.

“So, if you get the first shot and six months goes by and you cannot get the second shot, it’s okay because your immune system still has the memory of the first one, and you can get the second one up to two years after the first one.”

Only one drug company makes Shingrix — GlaxoSmithKline, or GSK.

GSK says:

“There have been no manufacturing issues.”

The unexpected demand caused the company to announce that it would release large shipments twice a month, beginning in December of last year.

Still, stores run out and put people on waiting lists.

Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles.

On the other hand, Ruggieri says, “if you’ve had the chickenpox vaccine, as a child, then you may never get shingles because you never had chickenpox.”
Island Urgent Care doesn’t offer the vaccine — and Ruggieri says you should check with your doctor before getting the vaccine.

“You want to know what your risk is, of getting shingles in the first place, and whether the shot is appropriate for you.”

Here is a link to the State Health Department vaccination locator where you can search for Shingrix, also known as the Recombinant Zoster Vaccine:

The Health Department recommends that you call your pharmacy before going, to make sure the vaccine is available.

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