A nationwide shortage of a shingles vaccine is putting San Luis Obispo County residents at risk of contracting the painful virus, which can bring severe complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults over 50 get the vaccine Shingrix, which is about 97 percent effective after two doses at preventing shingles in people 50 to 69 years old and 91 percent for people over 70.
But the vaccine is in short supply at pharmacies and health clinics. Local Rite Aid stores and the county Public Health Department report months-long wait lists.
“The drug is relatively new, and fairly immediately after licensure in October 2017 demand for the vaccine outstripped the supply,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, county director of Public Health.
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Orders for the vaccine have been delayed or only partially filled by its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, for some time now.
Borenstein said she doesn’t don’t know when the office will receive enough Shingrix to start offering the shot again.
GlaxoSmithKline said recently that the supply problem will continue into 2019, but the company will boost shipments to the United States in the next two to three years.
In the meantime, Borenstein said people can still get some protection with the single-dose shingles vaccine Zostavax, which is 51 percent effective at preventing the disease.
Those who have received the first dose of Shingrix should still get the second dose as soon as possible, Borenstein said.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, and the risk of getting shingles increases as you get older, even if you had chicken pox as a child, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Shingles results in a painful rash on the side of the face or body, and in some cases, fever, headache, chills and upset stomach.
About 10 to 13 percent of people who get shingles will develop a condition in which they suffer from severe pain even after the rash has cleared, according to the CDC.