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New Shingles Vaccine Difficult To Find In Ohio

For older Ohioans, there’s some good and some bad news.  A new shingles vaccine is markedly better than previous options, but the drugmaker is having a hard time keeping up with demand.

About a third of Americans will develop shingles—a painful rash from the same virus that causes chickenpox—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone over 50 get the vaccine.

GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix is about 90 percent effective, but Franklin County medical director Dr. Miller Sullivan says it’s hard to come by.

“This is a very good vaccine,” Sullivan says. “It’s supposed to be better than the previous vaccine, and as a result there’s been high demand for it. Unfortunately, the manufacturer has not been able to keep up completely with demand. So it is available but it’s often delayed.”

Part of the issue could be dosing—patients need two over the course of a few months.

“Since we have to give two, there’s like twice the demand,” Sullivan says. “Fortunately, even though there’s a recommended interval between two and six months after the first dose, if you can’t get it in that time frame you can still get it later on and don’t have to start it over again. So yes, it has added to the demand and the shortage.”

Sullivan also notes the vaccine’s effectiveness doesn’t appear to lag with a patient’s age, and it appears to remain active longer than existing treatments.

Despite shortages GlaxoSmithKline officials say more than 3 million doses have already been administered, and even though Shingrix hit the market in June they still expect to vaccinate more people this year than in all of 2017.

Copyright 2018 WOSU 89.7 NPR News