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Anchorage health department offers free shingles shots

Tegan Hanlon

The Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services is administering the costly shingles vaccination free to uninsured and underinsured people age 60 and older, said city health officials.

People will be seen on a walk-in basis during specified hours at the downtown health clinic, 825 L St., while supplies last, said Jennifer Ruggles, spokeswoman for the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services.

The clinic typically doesn't carry the vaccine but increased state funding allowed the city to purchase 500 vaccinations for $85,785 this year, she said.

Ruggles said the city flagged the shingles vaccine because of its high cost. A person can pay anywhere between $200 and $350 for one dose, she said.

It's unclear how many Alaskans are affected by the painful skin rash. State regulations do not require health facilities to report cases to the state, said Greg Wilkinson, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Social Services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three Americans will develop shingles. About 1 million cases occur each year.

Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. It appears as a rash on one side of the face or body and can last for up to four weeks. Accompanying symptoms include severe pain, fever, headache, chills and an upset stomach, said the CDC.

Ruggles recommends that people check with their health insurance company to see if the shot is covered. She noted that Medicare Part D covers the shingles vaccination.

Free shingles vaccination

For who: Uninsured and underinsured adults ages 60 and over

Where: Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services, 825 L St., first floor

When: Mondays and Fridays: 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m.