People are not being heard when it comes to healthcare needs


Two and a half weeks ago, after a 40-mile bike ride, I started to have severe muscle pain in my leg, back, and thigh. At the time I thought it was riding too hard on a warm day but when a rash appeared two days later I learned I had developed Shingles.

My first thought was “how can I have Shingles when I was vaccinated four years ago?” but after joining a private Shingles group on Facebook I would soon learn that the old vaccine was only 45% effective and that the new vaccine is in really short supply because GSK drastically underestimated the demand. The Facebook group is also a clear look into problems of our healthcare and doctors that don’t listen to patients.

Shingles is a horrible health condition that can be mild in some people and debilitating in others. Here is what I learned in reading posts in the Facebook Shingles group:

  • Doctor’s often are refusing to give patients the vaccinations until symptoms start.
  • It’s urgent to get on an antiviral within 24 hours of the first outbreak, but patients are having a hard time getting in to see their doctor quickly.
  • There are a lot of people who are getting Shingles in their 30’s, 40’s or 50’s but insurance won’t cover the cost of the vaccination until you’re 60.
  • GSK drastically underestimated the demand for the new Shingles vaccine which is 90% effective.
  • People are not aware that the older vaccine is only 45% effective.
  • Often doctors refuse to talk about the muscle pain aspect of Shingles and want to send patients to a neurologist.
  • Awareness of Shingles symptoms, beyond the painful rash and blisters, is low. For example the tiredness and flu like symptoms can last weeks.
  • Younger people are getting Shingles and insurance will not cover the vaccinations.

For me, the Facebook group educated me and allowed me to help others with what I have learned. Since it’s a closed group posts are not shared outside of the great group. The number of people who are frustrated with their doctors also was evident as too many doctors were willing to attribute early symptoms to other potential health problems.

GSK is trying to play catch up with the production of the vaccine but it takes a long time to manufacture. It’s a great insight into how our healthcare system is failing some people.