GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) shingles vaccine Shingrix has been deemed remarkably effective at preventing shingles in healthy adults 50 and older — that is, if they are able to find a doctor who has it in stock.
Earlier this year, the two-dose Shingrix was released in the United States as a stronger shingles vaccine than the now outdated single-dose Zostavax. The process for receiving the vaccination is simple: two to six months after the initial shot, patients need to return to receive the second dose. After receiving both, Shingrix reduces the likelihood of older adults getting shingles by over 90 percent. Without the second shot, however, the vaccine becomes ineffective.
The increased protection that Shingrix offers brought a flood of eligible adults to pharmacies nationwide who wanted to receive the shots. Unfortunately, GSK was grossly unprepared for the high level of demand for Shingrix, which triggered an ongoing nationwide shortage as they scramble to fill inventories. For some added perspective on the degree of this shortage,only 7 million doses of the vaccine were administered in the nation by Sep. 2018, but over 115 million adults are eligible. A number of those turned away had already received their first shot in the series.
Recent updates have revealed that the shortage, which began as early as May, is expected to persist ‘throughout 2019’, meaning that many adults will continue to wait while their initial vaccine continues to decline in effectiveness. Today, out-of-stock pharmacies have hundreds of people on their Shingrix vaccine waiting list — many of who already paid for the two doses.
Shingles, which is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, is no idle threat in the U.S. In fact, one in three adults develops the disease at some point in their life, which can then cause extreme nerve pain that lasts for months or years and highly reduces their quality of life. This pain is accompanied with a distinct painful, blistering rash and flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, fatigue, and headaches.
GSK’s inability to supply an adequate amount of Shingrix due to unpreparedness is an unacceptable reason for leaving older adults vulnerable. With that being said, GSX should be held legally accountable for the public health threat that resulted from their lack of planning ahead.
If you have not received or unable to receive the second dose of Shingrex, please contact Baron & Herskowitz to discuss your legal rights.