If you're subject to Shingles, good luck getting vaccine
Your best bet is to demand it from your medical provider
If you're over 50 and you had Chicken Pox in your childhood, trust me, you really want the newly released Shingles vaccine, Shingrix. In fact, plenty of younger people can get it too, since Chicken Pox never really goes out of your system, but Shingles really tends to kick in later in life. If you live to 85, chances are pretty good that you will experience it.
As it happens, I had the good luck to ask the Guam Veterans Administration clinic about this and got the first of two shots of the new vaccine. Unfortunately, the VA's initial supply was only 60 units, given that the lowest estimate of Guam military veterans (the previous U.S. census) is more than 8,000. More units are on order.
Guam Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Robert Haddock told Pacific Island Times that since Shingles is not a communicable disease, we don't track its incidence here.
Guam Public Health expects to shortly receive a small initial supply of the vaccine, with more to come.
In the CNMI, medical sources report treating some cases of Shingles through standard anti-viral methods, but no word on availability of the new vaccine.
Seventh Day Adventist Clinic on Guam has a supply of the older, less effective vaccine, but offered no information on when Shingrix might be available.
In Yap State, where Shingles cases have been reported to medical authorities, apparently neither vaccine is available.
If you ask Knoxville, Tennessee photographer Erin Morrison, she'll tell you that Shingles is not just for geezers.
"On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, I was sitting in my doctor’s office describing what was happening to the right side of my face and neck. 'I think that I have Poison Oak on my face, I don’t know where I would have gotten it from. It’s a little itchy and I have some major kinks in the back of my neck.' My doctor brought a light up to my face and examined my face and neck. He said, 'I think you have Shingles.' Um… Excuse. Me??
Yup. At 29 years of age, I had Shingles.
Now, I am sure that you all have watched the commercials on TV about Shingles. You remember the one with the retired firefighter telling his story? I do. And you know what? My story matched his. I remember him talking about doing yard work outside and he thought that he had something in the collar of his shirt. And he couldn’t figure out what was going on. Wow. Just like me… 'And it is bad. Something you never want to encounter,' he said. Ditto Mr. Firefighter man. Ditto."
And former medical missionary Dr. Ed Dodge said his case also started after a day working in the yard.
" Indeed, over the course of the next three weeks I experienced a classic case of shingles. The little bumps went on up onto my scalp, and some became blisters like chicken-pox blisters. That area of skin and scalp was sensitive to touch, and I had a low-grade headache for a few days (very unusual for me). For a few days I experienced sharp, piercing pains in my right ear every five or ten minutes. They made me wince, but lasted less than fifteen seconds. I did not get any blisters in or around my ear, which was fortunate. Shingles of the auditory nerve can be devastating."
A better alternative for parents in 2018? Make sure your children get the widely available vaccine against Chicken Pox!