Shingles vaccine supply remains limited

A new shingles vaccine remains in limited supply in the Dayton region.

When a new and improved vaccine hit the market last year, demand outstripped supply and led to waiting lists.

Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles and there are an estimated 1 million cases each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. This risk increases as you get older. Shingles is a painful rash and the CDC says some people develop a complication where they have long-lasting pain, perhaps for months.

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“About 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime so it is pretty common,” said Dr. Thomas Hirt, with PriMeD Centerville Family Practice.

There are two vaccines recommended to prevent shingles. The Zostavax vaccine has been around since 2006, but then a new vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in 2017.

Shingrix is now the preferred vaccine because it is much more effective — 97 percent effective in healthy adults 50 to 69 years old and 91 percent for those 70 and older. Zostavax was a little over 50 percent effective and recommended for those 60 and older.

When Shingrix was approved, there was much more patient demand than there ever was for Zostavax. As of 2016, about a third of adults 60 and older had the shingles vaccine, despite public health officials efforts to raise vaccination rates. Data from 2018 isn’t available yet to show interest in Shingrix, but pharmacists and doctors say demand increased.

Hirt said the older vaccine was a one-dose vaccine while the newer one requires two doses, and the newer vaccine is also recommended for those 50 and older instead of 60 and older. Both of those things can affect supply because there’s more doses needed per person and there’s more people that it is recommended for.

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“So right off the bat, you’ve got a bigger population,” Hirt said.

He said PriMed has so far received about 560 doses of the vaccine and there are 19,500 patients with the group that are 50 or older.

Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County has the shingles vaccine available and those interested can call 225-4550 to schedule and appointment.

The CDC says high levels of demand led to order limits by the vaccine manufacturer GSK and shipping delays, which are anticipated to continue throughout 2019.

Jason Briscoe, director of pharmacy operations with Drug Mart, said they have been keeping two waiting lists, one for those interested in the first dose and for those who have the first dose and are waiting on the second.

Briscoe said patients should be actively engaged with their health care provider to see if the vaccine is right for them.

CVS said in a statement that it is is getting shipments regularly and is prioritizing patients that need their second dose. Patients can call one of their stores to be added to a Shingrix request list.

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