Shortage of New Vaccine Puts Adults 50 and Older at Risk

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Santipong Srikhamta /

Older Americans who want an important inoculation against a painful medical condition are having a tough time getting it due to a shortage of a new vaccine.

As we reported previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that folks 50 or older — even those who are healthy — should get a new shingles vaccine sold under the name Shingrix. The CDC says shingles afflicts about 1 in 3 Americans in their lifetime, and the risk increases with age.

Last year, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reported that clinical trials found the Shingrix vaccine to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing shingles in folks ages 50 and older.

By contrast, an older vaccine — Zostavax — is anywhere from 38 percent to 70 percent effective, depending on age.

Thanks to the CDC’s recommendation, countless Americans have been requesting Shingrix, which is given in a pair of doses two to six months apart.

However, HealthDay reports that demand for Shingrix — which was introduced in October 2017 — has outpaced supply for months.

What should you do if you can’t get your vaccine?

Although the vaccine shortage has caused much frustration, good news appears to be on the horizon.

Late last month, British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline — which makes Shingrix — announced it was shipping a large volume of the vaccine to health care providers and pharmacies, HealthDay reports.

That should make it easier to get your two doses of Shingrix. GlaxoSmithKline has even set up a website to help you find providers in your area that have the vaccine.

If you have had one dose of the drug, don’t worry if your second dose is delayed. HealthDay reports that you will not have to start the vaccination process over.

Also, HealthDay says providing written proof that you have already had one dose of the vaccine may move you to the front of the line once your provider receives its next shipment of Shingrix.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful, blistering rash. The rash typically clears up within a few weeks, although it can lead to prolonged complications. According to the CDC, the most common complication is postherpetic neuralgia, a pain that can last for months or years after the rash is gone.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the body and can reactivate years later, causing shingles. So if you’ve had chickenpox, you’re at risk for shingles.

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