Doctors urge shingles vaccine, recommend calling ahead as shortage continues nationwide

Doctors urge shingles vaccine, recommend calling ahead as shortage continues nationwide

If you’ve ever had chicken pox, you are at risk of getting a nasty follow-up infection called shingles.

“Shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus, that lives dormant in our nerves,” said Dr. Gretchen LaSalle, a family physician at Multicare Rockwood’s Quail Run clinic.

In rare cases she says, if you’ve had the chicken pox vaccine you may also be at risk of contracting it.

Most at risk of the infection are the elderly and those with weakened and stressed immune systems.

“Its an outbreak of a blistering rash along the distribution of a nerve route, and its exceedingly painful,” she said. “Its a nerve pain, a burning, itching kind of pain.”

Even though the rash may only last a week or two, the pain of the rash can last for years in some cases.

“1 in 300 or so people will get shingles,” LaSalle said, noting that as more people get the chickenpox vaccine at a younger age, that number will likely drop with generational turnover.

Her recommendation is for anyone over the age of 50 who can, to get the vaccine. The age of 50 is a new recommendation that comes with the new, more effective Shingrix vaccine.

“Zostavax was recommended at age 60,” LaSalle said. “But now we have Shingrix, which is a much better vaccine. Its over 90 percent effective as compared to Zostavax, which was about 45-50 percent, so it works a lot better.”

Getting the vaccine, which requires an initial shot and then a follow-up 2-6 months later may be a challenge. LaSalle says that the vaccine has become so popular, there is currently a nationwide shortage, with wait lists that can be weeks or months long.

She advises calling your pharmacist or medical provider ahead of time to confirm they have the vaccine, and planning ahead for that second one as well. Protection gets less effective the longer you wait past the recommended 2-6 month period.

Quail Run had recently received an order of roughly 30 vaccines but expected them to go fast. They say its often unpredictable when shipments will come in.

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