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Shingrix shingles vaccine is scarce, but more is on the way

Unable to find a pharmacy or doctor with a supply of Shingrix, the new shingles vaccine? Be patient. Shipments are on the way, GlaxoSmithKline says.

GlaxoSmithKline's shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is approved to prevent the herpes zoster (shingles) virus in older adults.
GlaxoSmithKline's shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is approved to prevent the herpes zoster (shingles) virus in older adults.Read moreGSK

If you haven't been able to get GlaxoSmithKline's new shingles vaccine because of shortages, the pharmaceutical giant wants you to know that it is ramping up shipments.

"Shingrix has been met with an unprecedented level of demand from patients and health-care professionals," the company said in a statement. "We understand that this is a challenging situation to manage, and GSK is fully committed to expediting resupply throughout 2018. Going forward, providers and patients can feel confident that more doses are being made available."

The two-shot vaccine, approved last year for most people over age 50, is 90 percent effective at preventing shingles and its excruciating rash, which is an aftereffect of that childhood bane, chicken pox.

While the original vaccine, Merck's Zostavax, never really caught on after its 2006 debut because it wasn't very effective, the new one is extremely popular. More than 3 million doses have been administered since the U.S. launch in June 2018, GSK says.

The problem, enviable from a business standpoint but annoying for patients, is that supply hasn't kept up with demand.

GSK has a vaccine finder,, but keeping it up to date has been hard.

A pharmacy employee at the Rite Aid at 726 Market St. in Center City reported giving out that store's last dose on Thursday.

In contrast, a clerk in the office of Simon Su, a primary care physician affiliated with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, said that practice had plenty of Shingrix on hand.

Patients are supposed to get the second shot about two to six months after the first shot. If you can't meet the schedule because of being put on a waiting list, don't worry: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the second dose should be administered as soon as possible, rather than restarting the series.

"GSK's expectation based on review of insurance coverage policies is that reimbursement for Shingrix is not affected by the timing of the second dose," the company statement said.