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In Pursuit of the Elusive Shingrix…

Raised red bumps and blisters caused by the shingles virus

The latest shingles shot, that is. Since no one seems to want to enjoy a bout with shingles, the new Shingrix vaccine has been in short supply.

Now, however, our neighborhood Facebook group reports that the local grocery store pharmacy has it. I went by the Walgreen’s, where supposedly my name was on a wait list, only to find they’d never heard of me. 😀 WHY am I not surprised?

Well, this stuff apparently has some moderately fierce side effects. And the coming week is going to be pretty busy.

Tomorrow I spend the afternoon down at the church on receptionist duty. This will leave just enough time to fly home, feed and wring out the dogs, and bolt down dinner before flying back down there for choir rehearsal.  Friday three friends are coming over for dinner, and then we’re spending the evening gadding around downtown for the First Friday festivities. Sunday morning of course there’s singing.

Since we’re told you could be out-of-it for two to five days with fever, chills, shivering, and pain, I decided to put it off until Sunday. The pharmacist thinks they’ll still have enough to dispense shots this weekend. If not, then over to the Safeway, up to the Walmart or down to the Costco. Or all three. Apparently there’s not a huge shortage anymore.

So the plan now is, I’ll fly down there after choir on Sunday, then plan to spend the rest of the day moping around.

Monday I’m supposed to traipse across the city to the Mayo again(!), but the issue is nothing pressing, so if I’m unfortunate enough to number amongst the 1 in 60 who enjoy truly unpleasant side effects, I’ll just cancel.

And it’s almost inevitable: Doesn’t matter what the drug is. Whatever bizarre side effect it can inflict, I will absolutely get it. The rarer and the more atypical, the more likely it is to afflict me. So I’m expecting to be sick for at least two days. Hope not for five. Ugh.

BUT…five days under the weather is one hell of a lot better than a case of shingles . Holeee mackerel! Several friends and acquaintances have experienced bouts with this fine epizootic, and it is passing nasty.

The first person I met with the disease — which is a recrudescence of chicken pox — was a wildlife biologist. She and her husband had retired to the idyllic semi-wilds of Portal, in southern Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains not far from New Mexico. She had had it for two years! And it showed no sign of going away soon. The rash around her rib cage was so excruciatingly painful that it literally disabled her. She could do little more than lay on the couch and suffer. And as you can imagine, she had been an active woman before this thing hit her.

That was when I thought…uh oh! Whatever you do, don’t get old, ’cause you really DON’T want to get that stuff! In those days, there was no vaccine. And getting old was considered the main risk factor. Well, that and having had chicken pox as a kid. Which I certainly had: a particularly ferocious case of it.

But it kept me out of school for ten days or two weeks. So…I appreciated that. Nice little virus. 😉

Mercifully, by the time I finally did get old, they had developed the early shingles vaccine. As soon as they would let me take it — you had to be 60, as I recall — I darted into the Safeway pharmacy and signed up. Insurance wouldn’t cover it, of course — you expected a bear? The cost was $150. A lot of people refused to pay that, but having seen that biologist with the bug, I was happy to pony it up.

So of late, our young doctor at the Mayo says the old vaccine is not especially effective — better than nothing, but not good enough. She strongly recommended I get the two-dose Shingrex vaccine. But o’course like everyone else at that moment, the Mayo was out of the stuff.

Apparently Medicare Part D will cover it. But if it doesn’t: big deal. I’ll take out a loan against the house if I have to.

If you’ve ever had chicken pox — and you may have even if you think you haven’t, because some people get it without much rash and conclude that they’ve had a cold — you should get the Shingrex vaccination. It has a much higher likelihood of blocking a shingles episode than the earlier stuff did. And you should get it, too, if you’ve already had a case of shingles: it will protect you from a flare-up.

6 thoughts on “In Pursuit of the Elusive Shingrix…”

  1. Thanks for the “heads-up”…Shingles is very painful … nearly as painful is the vaccine’s cost. In this neck of the woods $160-$250….And a lot of conflicting info on coverage by insurance and Medicare. The language I have come across is awkward…It seems it is not covered by Part A or B BUT MAY be covered under Part D BUT more than likely it will fall to the “gap insurance”. Where the deductible and co-pays come into play…. My insurance company is very “non-commital”…when asked about coverage. They reply that I’m “covered” but first my deductible must be met before any cost sharing would commence. The crazy thing is based on this info I would be better served getting the vaccine thru Good Rx rather than my insurance as it would be cheaper. Vaccine availability here is “spotty”….some places have “wait lists”…

    • Every pharmacy and doctor’s office in town has been out of vaccine for months. This is the first I’ve heard of it being available for a long time. Even at $250, shingles is bad enough that the cost is a bargain.

      It is covered by Medicare Part D:

      Given the cost of drugs these days, if you’re eligible for Medicare you’re crazy not to get a Part D plan. The Humana/Walmart plan is very cheap — you can get prescriptions filled at any pharmacy but you get a particular discount at Walmart pharmacies. I’ve found it declines to cover drugs a LOT less often than Blue Cross’s rip-off “Wellcare” plan.

      • Good to know about the “Wellcare” plan and the Humana/Walmart… I will soon be taking this “drive down crazy lane” searching for a “gap plan” as well as a Part D provider. Shingles is BAD news but I worry about “side-effects” and unintended complications… from the vaccine.

  2. Figuring this stuff out is a real headache. I went with Wellcare out of the box (at age 65) because I recognized the Blue Cross name. But once on the plan I discovered they turned down almost every prescription my doctor wrote…and also found some lawsuits had been filed. The Wellcare plan was not cheap, either! I finally figured that if these plans were not going to cover much, I would be better off to go with the cheapest plan I could find, which was the Humana thing…and lo! Once on it, I found it covered almost everything — they have turned down only one Rx, and a little research revealed that they probably were right to do so.

  3. I have had both doses. Both times my arm was sore, red, swollen with a big egg knot. Lasted about two weeks! I have never reacted to a shot like that. The second time I made sure I didn’t get it in my dominate hand arm. FYI I had a case of shingles in my face, mild, no blisters, but it burned so bad I went to the doctor. I was 59 so wasn’t eligible for the original vaccine. After that experience I got the vaccine as soon as I turned 60, and the new double vaccine as soon as I learned of it. Insurance covered both times, but I would have gladly paid. Good luck FAM.

    • That sounds very uncomfortable. I’m sure not looking forward to it! On the other hand, I look forward to a case of shingles even less… 🙁

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