Flu shot supplies take hit from high demand

Posted: 01/10/13 at 5:30 am EST      Last Updated: 01/11/13 at 12:27 pm EST

SOMERVILLE, Mass. (WHDH) – A flu emergency has some cities and clinics now running low on the vaccine. People in and around Boston are scrambling to get the flu shot after an emergency was declared Wednesday.

Eighteen people in Massachusetts have died. Somerville, Wayland, Framingham, Natick and Lowell have all either run out of flu shots or are running very low.

Emergency rooms across the country are so clogged that patients are being turned away. Officials said this is the worst flu season they have seen in years.

“If people have not received a flu vaccine yet, they should go -- they should contact their doctor or their local public health authority about getting one,” said Governor Deval Patrick.

Nationwide, the flu has reached epidemic proportions, but finding the flu shot has proved difficult.

“You’re always weighing not wanting to give your kid a shot, not thinking the flu is going to be bad. We’ve got a lot of healthcare costs so trying to outweigh that and finally it just hits you, this is serious, what am I doing, I need to have shots right now,” said a local mother.

In Massachusetts, they’ve already distributed more than ¾ of a million vaccines and the state said they have plenty more, but clinics are having trouble keeping up with the demand.

The City of Somerville Health Department released a statement on their website Thursday morning saying that they ran out of the flu vaccine, and all further flu clinics for the season were canceled, this comes as the virus continues to spread rapidly across the state.

“We exhausted our supply on Tuesday of this week,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone.

But Cambridge Health Alliance came through with 100 doses to resupply the city until it can come up with more.

The Rite Aid in Somerville saw an influx of people coming to get their shots.

“We had a line of people before we were even opened, all waiting for flu shots,” said Kate Mordetsky, a Rite Aid pharmacist.

That Rite Aid ran out within two hours, but was able to get additional vials from other stores.

“I do have a lot of friends that are sick so I’m getting a little more nervous being around them,” said Janelle Shoup, who wants to get a vaccine.

Shoup hasn’t gotten a flu shot, but now wants one after learning 18 people statewide have died. Emergency rooms are averaging 30 patients a day.

In Somerville, they started an intense flu prevention campaign early, which has contributed to the current vaccine shortage. They have already given out more than 700 shots.

“Last year we vaccinated 416 people,” said Maureen Monagle, Somerville public health nurse manager. “So, the state usually allows an allocation based on the previous year.”

“We have requested additional vaccines from the state health department,” said Curtatone.

Tony Costa received his first flu shot Thursday.

“You know, I’ve never gotten a flu shot but thank God I never got sick. But I just turned 70 recently, and I said, ‘You know, I think it’s about time” said Costa.

The mayor is expecting a surge in demand and until the city gets more vaccines, he wants those in need to go to their doctor or pharmacy where there is ample supply.

If you do go to the pharmacy, you will have to pay for the flu vaccine. In Somerville, the mayor said if you can’t afford it or can’t find it call the city and they will help you.

It is important to remember that once you receive a flu shot, it could take up to two weeks for that shot to be effective.

There is no shortage of flu vaccines, but communities are having trouble keeping up with the demand. Health clinics in Boston will be offering free flu shots all weekend. You can find the full list here.

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