In the midst of the government shutdown, Long Island is seeing a shingles vaccine shortage, prompting Sen. Chuck Schumer to call on the Food and Drug Administration to take urgent action.
As a federal agency, the FDA has been shuttered in light of the government shutdown with the exemption of essential staff. Those essential workers should step up, Schumer says, and help alleviate this shortage, which could potentially lead to New Yorkers getting either Shingles or the chickenpox virus.
“To think that in the midst of a shingle shot vaccine shortage across Long Island, that the FDA is shutdown, is a worrisome thought and a problem that must be addressed,” Schumer said in a statement.
“The shingle shot shortage across the Island is a two-pronged worry,” he added, “because not only does a shortage mean more people might suffer the painful and harmful shingles virus itself, but it means that young people, particularly babies and children, even those with compromised immune systems who have never had chickenpox themselves, are at a greater risk to communicate the bug.”
You cannot spread shingles, but Dr. Michelle Lin of Mount Sinai Hospital told Metro that if someone has an active shingles outbreak, it could cause a chickenpox infection in someone who hasn’t previously had chickenpox or hasn’t yet been vaccinated.
“[Shingles] is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, so once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lives dormant in your nervous system essentially for your entire life,” she said.
“If there’s a period where your immune system isn’t as strong as it usually is, whether it’s from stress or insufficient sleep, sometimes if people are older or have a disease like HIV that causes their immune system to not be as strong, the virus can reactivate,” she said, “and cause the disease that we cause shingles, which is essentially a very painful rash.” It’s not life threatening, but there can be complications.
Who is affected by shingles vaccine shortage in New York?
Schumer is urging the FDA to consider the shortage an emergency and prioritize shipments of the vaccine to New York and other high-population states, because of the higher risk for spreading the chickenpox virus, before it becomes a “full-on crisis.”
This shortage concerns a new shingles vaccine, called Shingrix, that was approved by the FDA in 2017 and found to be more effective than the older vaccine.
Long Island pharmacies, including big names like CVS, are out of the shingles vaccine. The vaccine is recommended to anyone over the age of 50.
Lin said that there is certainly no shingles or chickenpox outbreak at the moment, and this shouldn’t alarm people into getting the vaccine if they otherwise weren’t intending to.
This vaccine requires two doses, so some concern stems from those who are awaiting their second dose, which is required two to six months after the first dose.
The CDC has reported that order limits and shipping delays for the shingles vaccine are likely to continue throughout 2019. GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of the shingles vaccine, plans to make more doses available in 2019, but Schumer is still urging improved communication “immediately” between government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and providers.
“As the demand for the new shingles vaccine remains high, the State Department of Health is monitoring the situation closely and in regular communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement. “The Department recommends New Yorkers use the vaccine finder to locate a provider or pharmacy that has the vaccine available. In addition, the Department also recommends people put their name on a wait-list if their provider or pharmacy offers one. “