Shingles shot in high demand, but very low supply

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- With concerns over measles and other infectious diseases, more Americans are looking to get vaccinated. One shot in high demand - shingles.

The newest vaccine developed in 2017 is in such a high demand, Wiregrass pharmacies struggle to keep it in stock.

The problem is that shingles isn't seasonal - it's caused by the same virus as chicken pox.

Anyone can get it, so the shot to prevent it is causing lines at pharmacies.

Allen Strickland runs Allen’s Pharmacy in Dothan.

He has no shortage of prescription medications and vaccinations,

Well, except for one.

"It is very, very hard to get,” said Strickland. “It's new, and it's more approved."

Strickland is talking about Shingrix, a shingles shot that has over a 90% success rate according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shingrix came out in 2017, but Strickland’s had a hard time keeping it on the shelves.

"It's not like making pills or capsules or liquids, where they can mass produce millions in a day time,” said Strickland. “It takes a certain period of time for them to grow out on a culture like they do a petri-dish."

Right now, Allen's Pharmacy has 11 people on the waiting list for Shingrix, and Strickland says he usually only gets three doses of it at a time.

Another problem is that Shingrix requires a booster dose two to six months after the first one, so three doses doesn't stretch very far.

"Say I got in three shots today, and I got 11 people, well if any of them have had the previous shot, I fell that, if it's time for it, they need the booster quicker than starting someone from scratch,” said Strickland.

Shingles is an itchy and painful skin rash caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

According to the Shingrix website, more than 99% of Americans already have the chicken pox virus, and it can re-activate at any time.

Strickland still carries Zostavax, which came out in 2006, but only has a 51% percent effectiveness.

The CDC recommends, even if someone got the old vaccine, they should go ahead and get in line for Shingrix.

"It's a bad boy, trust me,” said Strickland. “Anybody that's had the shingles will tell you real quick that is not something you want."

According to the Shingrix website, the parent company, GSK has increased deliveries and accelerated shipments of doses of vaccine for 2019.

They hope to eventually have it available throughout the year.

Strickland said Shingrix is fairly expensive, running over $200 without insurance and averages an $80 co-pay with insurance.

You have to be at least 50 years old to get the vaccine.