Long wait for shingles vaccine due to national shortage

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Every morning pharmacist Kevin Shukla checks to see if the shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is in stock.

“If it is, you have a couple seconds to order it because everyone is ordering at the same time,” he said.

It’s the new vaccine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people age 50 and older get to prevent shingles — the condition that can lead to nerve pain which can last for years, even after the rash goes away.

The Shingrix website says, “Shingrix is the first shingles vaccine approved by the FDA in more than 10 years” for the prevention of shingles in adults 50 years and older. The website adds it’s, “ … the only vaccine proven to be greater than 90 percent effective in adults 50 years and older in clinical trials.”

The problem is that pharmacies across the country are experiencing a shortage of the vaccine.

“Now that everyone is aware of it we can’t get it,” said Shukla. “We have over 20-plus patients that are still waiting on the medication.”

One Montclair resident we spoke with says about two weeks ago she tried to get the shot at a local pharmacy and was put on a waitlist. Her number? 300. She said a different pharmacy in West Orange told her their list was too long to even add her name.

The CDC says almost 1 in 3 people in the country will get shingles. You’re at risk if you’ve ever had the chickenpox, and that risk goes up as you get older.

“They know they don’t want to go through all the pain and everything that comes with shingles, so they want to prevent it ahead of time but it’s something that you can’t get,” said Shukla.

The other problem is Shingrix needs to be given in two rounds to be effective. The recommendation is to get your second shot 2 to 6 months after the first one. But some people are having trouble finishing their cycle.

“It’s really hard and the only thing you can do is wait,” Shukla said.

New Jersey’s Department of Health says even if you have to wait longer because of the shortage, you do not need to restart the series. The company that makes the Shingrix vaccine says they are working to address the shortage by increasing deliveries and accelerating shipments.