Se­niors, phar­ma­cies scram­ble for scarce shin­gles vac­cine

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY SARAH PAEZ spaez@cen­

Since the new shin­gles vac­cine Shin­grix came on the mar­ket in March, high de­mand and un­matched sup­ply forced a short­age around the coun­try, mean­ing many se­niors in Cen­tre County are fac­ing ob­sta­cles to get­ting vac­ci­nated.

Bar­bara Kennedy of State Col­lege vis­ited five phar­ma­cies and a doc­tor’s of­fice be­fore fi­nally get­ting her Shin­grix vac­cine. “Af­ter call­ing many lo­cal phar­ma­cies and learn­ing about the very long wait­ing lists, I wor­ried that I and many oth­ers in cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia might not be able to get the vac­cine for a very long time,” she said.

Kennedy tried four dif­fer­ent CVS phar­ma­cies in State Col­lege and Boals­burg Apothe­cary. At one of the CVS lo­ca­tions, Kennedy said she was told that the wait­ing list for Shin­grix was too long to even add her. Boals­burg Apothe­cary hasn’t re­ceived a ship­ment of the vac­cine since July, and its wait­ing list is close to 50 peo­ple long, said owner Bill Faust.

“It’s hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where in the coun­try,” he said of the vac­cine short­age. “GSK (Glax­oSmithK­line, the man­u­fac­turer) could not keep up with the de­mand.”

‘‘ I WOR­RIED THAT I AND MANY OTH­ERS IN CEN­TRAL PENN­SYL­VA­NIA MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO GET THE VAC­CINE FOR A VERY LONG TIME. Bar­bara Kennedy of State Col­lege, who vis­ited five phar­ma­cies and a doc­tor’s of­fice to find the Shin­grix vac­cine


The Cen­ters for Dis­ease

Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion rec­om­mends peo­ple over 50 get vac­ci­nated with Shin­grix to pre­vent her­pes zoster, the shin­gles virus and re­lated com­pli­ca­tions like chronic pain called pos­ther­petic neu­ral­gia (PHN).

Shin­gles is caused by the vari­cella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chick­en­pox. For adults who have al­ready had chick­en­pox, the VZV is dor­mant in their body, leav­ing them a 1 in 3 chance of con­tract­ing a case of shin­gles. Shin­gles de­vel­ops, in most cases, as a rash of fluid-filled blis­ters that are painful to the touch; fever, chills, up­set stom­ach or headache; and burn­ing, tin­gling or numb­ness of the skin.

Shin­grix, ac­cord­ing to the CDC, is 96-97 per­cent ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing shin­gles in adults aged 50 to 69 and 91 per­cent ef­fec­tive in adults aged 70 and older. By con­trast, Zostavax, the shin­gles vac­cine in use since 2006 that is man­u­fac­tured by Merck, re­duces a per­son’s chance of get­ting shin­gles by 51 per­cent and their chance of con­tract­ing PHN by 67 per­cent.

Though lo­cal CVS phar­ma­cists and staff de­clined to com­ment for this story, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the com­pany’s cor­po­rate head­quar­ters con­firmed the short­age.

“Due to high de­mand for this new and highly-ef­fec­tive vac­cine, it has be­come chal­leng­ing to keep an am­ple sup­ply across all of our more than 9,800 stores and more than 1,100 clin­ics due to sup­ply re­stric­tions from the man­u­fac­turer,” Amy Lanc­tot, the se­nior pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager for CVS, wrote in an email.

Sean Cle­ments, the ex­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Glax­oSmithK­line, the United King­dom­based man­u­fac­turer of Shin­grix, said “there is no man­u­fac­tur­ing is­sue” re­gard­ing the vac­cine short­age.

“Shin­grix has been met with an un­prece­dented level of de­mand from pa­tients and health care pro­fes­sion­als,” he wrote in an email. “GSK has re­sponded to this de­mand by sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing and ac­cel­er­at­ing ship­ments of Shin­grix. We un­der­stand that this is a chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tion to man­age for pa­tients seek­ing im­mu­niza­tion. We have been ship­ping large vol­umes of Shin­grix reg­u­larly ev­ery two to three weeks and plan to go to ship­ping twice a month, start­ing in De­cem­ber. A large ship­ment was dis­trib­uted last week.”


Even ma­jor lo­cal health cen­ters can’t stock Shin­grix be­cause of the short­age.

Mount Nit­tany Health is on a wait­ing list for the Shin­grix vac­cine from GSK, said Anissa Ilie, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions co­or­di­na­tor. Though the health cen­ter does not know when they will re­ceive a ship­ment next, Ilie said Mount Nit­tany will con­tact pa­tients di­rectly once the vac­cine is made avail­able by the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany.

Be­cause Shin­grix is a two-step vac­cine, the CDC rec­om­mends wait­ing two to six months for the sec­ond dose. If a per­son waits longer than six months to get their sec­ond dose, they should not restart the se­quence.

At Boals­burg Apothe­cary, the wait for a new ship­ment of Shin­grix could be months long.

“I was told that we should have some prod­ucts in our hand by mid-Jan­uary,” Faust said.

Kennedy thinks the fact that she was able to get a vac­cine was a stroke of good for­tune.

“I got lucky and found one phar­macy that had a few doses of the vac­cine,” she said. “But I worry about all those peo­ple who are still on wait­ing list to re­ceive this vac­cine.”

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