In Quest of a Shingles Vaccine

close up of white syringe
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Time flies. It feels as if I only started this blog on sandwich generation living a couple of years ago. But in fact, my mom has been gone for more than three years. Lately more of my concerns have to do with my own aging. At the moment, I’m on a mission to get the shingles vaccine for myself and my husband.

Until 2017, the “correct” age to get an immunization against shingles was 60. That was the old — and still available vaccine, Zostavax. I watched with consternation as one of my older brothers was denied the vaccine at 59, told to wait a year. Then he came down with shingles only a few weeks later. I took note as a few other older friends and relatives also got shingles in their late fifties. I thought all we could do, the spouse and I, was cross our fingers and hope to cross the 60 line without an outbreak.

But now there’s a newer, better, longer lasting vaccine, Shingrex. The recommendation is to get it in your fifties. Hooray! We didn’t have to wait. Or so I thought.

There’s a chasm sometimes between what’s recommended and what’s possible. In this case, there’s a nationwide shortage of the Shingrex vaccine. I started my immunization quest in April. It’s now August, and my husband and I are on page seven of the waiting list at one pharmacy. I don’t know how many names per page. I decided to put us on a second waiting list at a different place, thinking maybe they had a better supply chain. Or magic or something. We’re at around number 500 on the list there.

It’s a 2-dose vaccine, so people who have somehow managed to get their first shot all have first dibs before we do. It’s been a minute since I had a math class of any kind. But I understood quickly that our progression up the list was not going to be steady and linear. Everyone in front of us waiting for their first dose would remain in front of us as they were prioritized for their second round. So 500th in line doesn’t mean you get the 500th dose to arrive in the pharmacy store room. It could be the 600th or 700th. The person who took our names bluntly told me they had none — zero — in stock at the moment, and it could be up to two years before we’re at the top of the list.

We’re trying to eat healthful foods and exercise regularly to bolster our immune systems. I’ve put reminders on my phone to call around to pharmacies every couple of weeks. Beyond that, I guess we’re back to crossing our fingers.

Here’s more information about the vaccine for anyone who’s interested.

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