Need This Vaccine? Here’s Why You’ll Have to Wait

Older man getting vaccine
Photo by Monkey Business Images /

A vaccine that can prevent shingles remains in short supply.

According to an AARP report, shortages of the Shingrix vaccine have become a major headache in three states — Pennsylvania, Montana and Colorado. The states are the latest to report shortages of Shingrix, which frequently has been in low supply since it was unveiled two years ago.

Shingles is a painful, blistering rash that typically takes weeks to clear up. It also can lead to prolonged complications such as postherpetic neuralgia, a condition with lingering pain in the areas where a person had the rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Around 1 in 3 Americans will get shingles during their lifetime, and the risk increases with age.

The CDC recommends that people 50 or older get the Shingrix vaccine, which is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles.

The older shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is 38% to 70% effective.

Why the drug is scarce — and how to get it

The effectiveness of the Shingrix vaccine is a major contributor to its scarcity, according to AARP. People want to avoid the rash so badly — and the vaccine works so well — that there has been a run on Shingrix.

However, there are steps you can take to boost your odds of finding Shingrix. They include:

  • Use the Shingrix website. British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline — which makes Shingrix — has set up a website to help you find providers in your area that have the vaccine.
  • Use the Vaccine Finder tool. Use the Healthmap Vaccine Finder tool. This site can help you find Shingrix — or any other vaccine.
  • Check with neighboring towns. Call pharmacies and clinics in nearby towns to see if they have the vaccine.
  • Get on a wait list. If you simply cannot find Shingrix anywhere close by, get on a waiting list with your doctor or pharmacist.

Another option is to make an appointment to get the Zostavax vaccine. Although it’s not as effective as Shingrix, it can offer some protection while you wait for Shingrix to become available.

Getting the Zostavax vaccine now does not preclude you from getting the Shingrix vaccine later. In fact, the CDC recommends that people age 50 and older get Shingrix even if they previously received Zostavax.

Shingrix is not the only vaccine the CDC recommends for people who are 50 or older. For more, check out “Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines.”

Have you been vaccinated for shingles? Share your tale in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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