ANCHORAGE -

The Anchorage Health Department is offering the shingles vaccine free of charge to qualified Alaskans.

The vaccine is free for anyone 60 or older who is uninsured, or whose health insurance does not cover the expensive vaccine.

It's the first time that the municipality has offered it for free, said Sarah Sanderlin, clinical services manager for Health and Human Services.

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is dormant in people who have had chickenpox. It can reactivate if a person's immune system is weakened.

"As we age, our immune system response slows down a little bit more and we're at more risk to get shingles at an older age," said Sanderlin.

Symptoms like low energy, headaches, or stress can be a sign of the virus acting up.

The municipality is carrying the vaccines after additional funding allowed the health department to purchase about 500 doses for about $85,000.

Sanderlin said the vaccine will be offered until the city runs out.

The clinic is open Mondays and Fridays from 8:30-11:30am and 1:00pm-4:30pm. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the clinic is open from 1:00pm-4:30pm.