Shingles vaccine shortage impacting patients in Tri-Cities

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If you are having trouble getting the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, you are not alone.

Since it was approved in 2017, Shingrix has been in short supply.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Glaxo Smith Kiline, the company that produces the vaccine, planned to increase doses available this year, but local pharmacies in the Tri-Cities are still seeing shortages.

“Usually something like this lasts for a month or so,” said Jacob Cox, pharmacist at Mooney’s Pharmacy in Johnson City, “but this has been months on end.”

Cox said many of his customers are on a waiting list for the Shingrix vaccine.

“I have probably 100 people,” he said.

It’s a problem Cox said is being seen across the Tri-Cities.

“I’ve been calling the big chain stores and asking them myself, ‘do you guys have this in?’ and none of them have it in either,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Shingrix “provides strong protection against shingles and PHN,” and is recommended for adults 50 years and older.

In fact, the CDC says it is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles or postherpetic neuralgia.

“Actually, it’s shown to be one of the most effective vaccines we have on the market,” said Dr. Beth Fox, Associate Dean and Chief of Staff for the Quillen College of Medicine at Eastern Tennessee State University. 

Dr. Fox described to us how it works.

“This vaccine produces a 24-fold increase in the T-cells,” she said. “Not only that, but the increase in the anti-bodies against the virus, and so that’s why it is so effective.”

Cox said the shortage is partially due to unexpected high demand.

He said it’s also due to the way it is administered.

“It used to be just one shot,” said Cox, “but now this new Shingrix vaccine is two shots, so now you’re doubling the amount of shots you are able to produce which is tough for the suppliers to keep up with.”

Dr. Fox says an older, live vaccine called Zostavax can provide an alternative.

“You can get this one now if people don’t want to wait and you can still get the Shingrix once it’s available,” she said.

“What I would hope is that the producers of the medication, the manufacturers could ramp up their production,” said Cox, “but at the same time, I wouldn’t want to force them to drop their quality of product.”

Dr. Fox said because of the costs associated with the Shingrix vaccine, Quillen College of Medicine does not keep the vaccine in its clinics.

She said you are able to get recommended and written prescriptions from physicians and purchase the vaccine at local pharmacies.

Dr. Fox also said the health department also provides the vaccine for some individuals who are uninsured or are unable to pay. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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