By Dr. Maria Simbra

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gabe Antypas is getting a shot — not at the doctor’s, but at a pharmacy.

“My physician suggested that I have my shingles shot, because I’m at the right age,” Gabe says. “A month ago, I took the first one, and today I have my second. The doctor suggested that I would have it, but he did not have the new Shingrix vaccine. So I decided to have it here at the pharmacy.”

“We do have a flier up front, just to sort of say that we have it, but most of the people are finding us,” says Astis’ Pharmacy pharmacist Ashley Firm.

The pharmacy is being overwhelmed by people asking for the new shingles vaccine — 10 to 15 requests a week. They’ve been able to vaccinate two to three.

“We have quite a long list of people wanting to get it. It’s on a little bit of a backorder,” says Firm.

Shingrix was FDA approved earlier this year for people 50 and up. The previous option was for people 60 and up.

“It’s much more effective than our old vaccine, closer to 90 percent. And it also allows for people who are immunocompromised, so they have cancer treatment, or something that prevented them from getting the old vaccine before, they can get the new one,” says Firm.

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“This particular vaccine induces a more vigorous immune reaction that appears to be durable. So we’re really excited our older patients will remain protected, even into their 80s and 90s,” Allegheny General Hospital internist Dr. Marc Itskowitz adds.

The old vaccine was made from weakened virus, which made it risky for people with frail immune systems. The new vaccine is made from killed virus. It works better, the effectiveness lasts longer, and you can still get it even if you had the old one.

Problem is, some people are having trouble finding the vaccine. Their doctor may not have it in stock, or it may not be covered at the doctor’s office under their insurance, because it is covered as a prescription rather than a medical service. So people head to the drug store.

“Some insurances will cover it here. And some we have to turn back to their doctor’s office or have them call their insurance to find out exactly what’s going on,” Firm says.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. It goes dormant in a certain part of your nerve cells. It can reactivate years later, leading to a painful rash along the path of that particular nerve.

“If you’ve known anyone with shingles, you’ll definitely know why you should get the vaccine,” says Firm.

Gabe is quite happy he was able to get it at a pharmacy — and it was covered by insurance.

“I did not feel any pain, and I function fine. I have no pain whatsoever,” he says.

Dr. Maria Simbra