Maker of shingles vaccine working to overcome shortfall |

Maker of shingles vaccine working to overcome shortfall

Nicole C. Brambila

Kathie Geary waited 10 months for a shingles vaccine. It was five months longer than her husband, who got the in-demand shot series through the VA.

“The last time, you could go right in and they had it,” said Geary, 69, of East Deer. “Right now, it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of places that have it.”

She’s not alone.

Pennsylvania residents report being on waitlists for Shingrix, a shingles vaccine in high demand.

Shingrix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, was first approved and sold on the market in late 2017. It is considered the more effective of two vaccines on the market. Since being approved, GSK has sold 12 million doses of the two-dose vaccine, said company spokesman Sean Clements. About a third of that was distributed in the first three months of this year.

Shingrix takes about six to nine months to manufacture. GSK has been working to minimize the shortfalls with overseas production ramping up. In April, it announced a $100 million investment in its Montana plant to expand the company’s manufacturing capacity.

Shingles is a disease that results in painful blisters on the torso and is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at a greater risk for developing shingles.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease physician, called the demand “unprecedented.”

A couple of factors have contributed to the shortage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the minimum recommended age for getting the vaccine from 60 to 50, making about 60 million more Americans eligible, and insurance companies were quick to adopt coverage.

With more than 100 million people 50 and older eligible, and enough doses in the first quarter of 2019 to fully vaccinate 1.8 million, Pennsylvanians wanting a vaccine should anticipate delays, which are expected through at least the end of the year.

About one in three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the CDC. An estimated 1 million people get shingles every year. About 1% to 4% of those who get shingles are hospitalized for complications, which include heart attack and stroke.

The health department recommends that people use GSK’s vaccine finder or call their family doctor or pharmacy to see if the vaccine is in stock.

Categories: News | Health Now
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.