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Q: Has the new shingles vaccine become more available? It has been difficult to get for some time now.
A: Availability comes and goes. It was somewhat available in Champaign-Urbana as of earlier this week.
As you've likely read, the new and more effective shingles vaccine, Shingrix, has been in high demand, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that shortages and intermittent shipping delays should be anticipated through this year.
Shingles vaccination is advised for adults 50 and older. That's the most vulnerable age population for the condition that causes a painful, itchy rash and blisters that anyone who's ever had chickenpox can get.
Shingrix, which was FDA-approved in October 2017, has become the preferred shingles vaccine, though the older Zostavax is still in use.
Shingrix has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing both shingles and a shingles complication, post-hepatic neuralgia, provided both vaccine doses are received. Zostavax is said to reduce the risk of shingles by 51 percent, and the risk of postherpetic neuralgia by 67 percent.
Christie Clinic had a sufficient supply of Shingrix earlier this week, but by the end of the week had started to run low due to heavy demand, spokeswoman JENNA KOSS said.
Carle spokeswoman JAMIE MULLIN said as shortages continue, Carle is calling patients who received the first dose of Shingrix to come in for the second dose as supplies arrive.
You can also check with local pharmacies about whether Shingrix is available there.
CVS pharmacies and Minute Clinic sites across the country have been finding it a challenge to keep the vaccine available at all locations, according to CVS spokeswoman AMY LANCTOT.
"We are still getting shipments intermittently. Patients are encouraged to call their local store or clinic in advance to find out if they have the Shingrix vaccine in stock," she said.
A word of warning about the Shingrix vaccine: It produces a strong immune effect and can come with uncomfortable side effects for up to two or three days afterward. Seek medical attention for a severe reaction, which could include wheezing, chest tightness, fever, itching, a bad cough, blue skin color, seizures or swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, Carle Director of Pharmacy LINDA FRED advised.
The Zostavax vaccine is still recommended for healthy adults 60 and older if Shingrix is unavailable, according to the CDC. However, the agency advises patients vaccinated with Zostavax to also get Shingrix later. And, once the first dose of Shingrix has been administered, Zostavax shouldn't be substituted for the second dose.