Demand for seasonal flu shots is surpassing supply

The concerns about the novel influenza H1N1 has created a higher demand for season flu shots, some area health care professionals say they have noticed.

 

That demand, in some cases, is surpassing the number of doses available.

The Richmond County Health Department ran out of seasonal flu vaccines less than two weeks after administering the first dose, said Teresa A. Catlett, clinical nursing director for Richmond County Health Department.

The department doled out 1,500 shots since the flu clinics opened on Sept. 21, Ms. Catlip said.

“Our demand has tripled this year compared to last year,” she said. “Most people would not have received the shot until mid-October, but they are starting early this year.”

In some cases, patients are experiencing flu-like symptoms earlier this season, but much of the demand has to do with a greater awareness of the virus, said Terrence Cook, an Augusta physician. The Georgia Division of Public Health has distributed the vaccine slowly and sparingly over the last couple of months in spite of the high demand, Dr. Cook said.

“They have sent a few bottles here, and a few bottles there,” he said. “It’s very unnerving.”

Dr. Cook’s office has administered 200 flu shots since late August, and was out of the vaccine for two weeks. About 100 doses were delivered today, but he said he is still concerned about a sufficient amount of the vaccine being available.

“We thought we’d be safe by ordering a significant quantity, but we’re not receiving nearly enough for our patients that we see.”

The rush to create and distribute the H1N1 vaccine has put a delay on producing the seasonal flu vaccine, Ms. Catlip said. Though patients are concerned about H1N1, the demand for the seasonal flu vaccine still exists. Ms. Catlip said she is unsure of when the state will deliver additional doses to the Augusta area.

“We’ve got 15 to 20 businesses on a waiting list to get flu shots,” she said. “We have no idea when will be able to give them out again.”

Walgreens on Whiskey Road in Aiken had only 20 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine left Wednesday, said pharmacist Susan Dougherty. A shipment would soon be on the way, she said. The drug store has administered more than 1,200 flu shots since Sept. 1.

“We give out about 50 to 60 shots per day,” Mrs. Dougherty said. “The response has been overwhelming this year versus last year.”

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