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Shingles vaccine shortage leaves Colorado seniors waiting

Posted at 6:55 PM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 20:55:09-05

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- A nationwide shortage of the new shingles vaccine has left Colorado seniors scrambling to find it, especially people who have already had the first dose and want to take the second in the recommended time frame.

"I got my first dose on 7/23," said Raymond Rowland, a Littleton resident who considered the vaccine to be a sort of "miracle drug" against a terrible disease. "I've known several people who have had it, and it's awful. It's gruesome."

He got the first of two shots in July, but when he called his Littleton Rite Aid on Thursday to schedule the second, they told him they were out.

"They told me they had 335 people on their waiting list, and they wouldn't even take my name," said Rowland.

GSK, the drugmaker, has a vaccine locator tool, but multiple locations where it was listed as available actually had pages of waiting lists.

Kim Ward, a board member with the Colorado Pharmacists Society, said hundreds of people are on wait lists across the Denver metro (with some people putting their names on multiple lists.).

The Shingrix vaccine was approved in October 2017, and unlike the old vaccine for people 60 and up, it is for people 50 and up and it is 90 percent effective.

"The word has spread how effective this vaccine is and patients want to take advantage of that," said Ward.

The Centers for Disease Control website states that GSK has "implemented order limits" and predicted that shipping delays for all of 2018.

In a statement to Denver7, though, GSK wrote, "We have increased and accelerated supply," with another large shipment scheduled later this week and twice-monthly shipping starting in December.

Rowland is just worried that his second dose won't be within the recommended six months of the first, which the CDC is assuring will still be effective, saying people won't have to re-start the vaccine series even if they get it later than recommended.