Shingles Hard to Bear, Vaccine Hard to Get

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"It's a terrible system," Schaffner said. "As I like to say, the shingles vaccine is akin to a brand new Jaguar, and we're keeping it in the garage."

There's also a problem on the manufacturing end. Merck -- the maker of Zostavax -- has reported a shortage of the essential ingredient: live but weakened chickenpox virus. But Merck has asked the FDA to broaden the recommendations to include people aged 50 to 59.

Shingles is rare in people under 50, but not unheard of. It tends to only affect younger people with weakened immune system, for whom live vaccines aren't recommended because of the potential to wake the dormant virus, according to the FDA.

Although Yager has no scars from the painful rash that left her wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap for four weeks, she still gets an itchy and sometimes painful sensation above her right brow.

"It will all of a sudden feel like somebody's sticking a needle in my forehead," Yager said. "And when I put makeup on, it feels like Novocain that hasn't entirely worn off."

Yager hopes the FDA extends the Zostavax recommendations so that insurers might cover the vaccine for people 50 to 59. But even at $160, she'd recommend getting it.

"Over having shingles?" she asked. "Definitely."

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