Somebody Get Me a Shot: Further Adventures at CVS Pharmacy

This article in The New York Times–“Why You Should Get the New Shingles Vaccine“–reminded me of  yet another frustrating conversation I recently had at a pharmacy. Here’s the last one. Before that, I had a pharmacist tell me that Ambien wasn’t habit-producing, and that I could stay on it indefinitely, for years (!). What the fuck are they teaching in the pharmacy schools nowadays?

Now that I’m freely divulging my personal health information, I may as well tell you that on my last visit to Planned Parenthood, I discovered that for all the crap they sling about the importance of getting tested for the full panel of STDs, the average Planned Parenthood center often doesn’t test for any of them on site except gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV–whether you pay out of pocket or not. If you ask why, they’ll just shrug their shoulders and look blankly at you, as though they hadn’t the foggiest idea as to the answer. In other words, I can attest from personal experience that most of the information on this page is bullshit: it lists a series of STD tests, claims to offer them, but doesn’t. I know better than to think that being tested for gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV is “safe enough” or “good enough” for safe sex. I also have health insurance and a primary care physician. But that isn’t true of everyone. Any guesses as to the results?

One more anecdote: not long ago, I attended an all-day seminar at a well-known, fully accredited continuing education program for psychologists and therapists in New York City; the person running it asserted that melatonin ameliorated the effects of Parkinson’s disease, whose symptoms (she continued) sometimes remit of their own accord. Not a single claim there is correct, and yet all of them were given as advice to someone diagnosed with Parkinson’s! That was a “continuing education,” all right, just not on the intended topic. (My wife Alison, who’s a therapist–and who forced me to take the preceding episode more seriously than I originally had–tells me that pseudo-science is par for the course in CE courses in psychology. I believe her.)

I’d like to think that the preceding are medical WTF moments to last a lifetime. But I fully expect more.

Anyway, here I am, bitching about the shingles vaccine on the Times’s website:

Irfan Khawaja

New Jersey 2 hours ago

I’m about to turn 49, had chickenpox at age 5, and was told at my local pharmacy that it was “illegal” to give me a vaccination, even if I paid for it out of pocket, because it can “only” be given to those 50 and over. Is that correct? And is it reasonable? It seems absurd. Why is 50 treated as though it were a magic number?

One reader offered the plausible hypothesis that what the pharmacist meant was that people under age 50 needed a physician’s prescription to get the vaccination. Maybe, but that isn’t what I was told. When I asked for a reason why I couldn’t get the shot, I was told that “studies show it isn’t recommended for people under 50.”  I can’t imagine a dumber or more irresponsible response: I wasn’t aware that the shingles virus operated by such rigid, closed shop rules.  My first inclination was to press the point, but sometimes, when faced with complete, abject stupidity, one simply shuts down and gives in.

How is it that as we fight a “war on drugs,” and face sundry public health crises, we put up with such half-assed, pseudo-scientific treatment on an everyday basis at the local pharmacy? And public health professionals wonder why people believe things like “vaccines cause autism.” Heal thyselves, goddammit!

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