[FLU UPDATE] Officials Urge Vaccination Even As Spot Shortages Reported

Officials Urge Vaccination Even As Spot Shortages Reported.

In continuing coverage, ABC World News (1/15, story 5, 3:15, Sawyer) reported, “almost 70 million Americans believe the flu shot will give them the flu,” despite evidence to the contrary. ABC’s Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser explained that the reason people might feel some effect from the flu shot for a few days is because their immune system is reacting to the vaccine by building antibodies. In addition, while the vaccine will protect people 62% of the time, “It doesn’t protect you against everything, but it protects you against a lot. It’s a really smart way to go.”

        NBC Nightly News (1/15, story 4, 2:40, Williams) reported that “medicines to treat the flu and its symptoms have been selling very fast, especially Tamiflu [oseltamivir phosphate],” adding that “with the flu spreading, clinics nationwide are reporting spot shortages of the vaccine,” with one clinic in New York running out twice in one day. According to NBC, “the CDC has recommended for years that everyone older than 6 months get the flu shot, but during the last two flu seasons, fewer than half actually received the vaccine,” which they point out will provide some protection this season as well as maybe some protection next season.

        The Washington Times (1/16, Somers) reports, “One of the deadliest and most severe flu seasons on record has spread to more than 90 percent of the nation,” with only Hawaii, California, Mississippi, and Washington, DC reporting regional or local flu activity. The Times adds that “the increase in the number of cases reported this season has had a two-pronged affect:” vaccines are in short supply in some places because of increased demand due to the severity of the flu; and in addition, patients are rushing to EDs and urgent care centers when they start showing flulike symptoms. The Times also mentions that some hospitals, such as those run by Inova in Northern Virginia, are enacting policies that restrict visitors for patient safety.

        The Chicago Tribune (1/16, Hirst, Svitek) reports that Trust for America’s Health has said the rate of vaccination “Nationwide…was about 42 percent, with South Dakota in first with about 51 percent, and Nevada last with less than 33 percent.” The Tribune adds that around 37 percent of Illinois residents have received the vaccine, but “unfortunately…the vaccination rates for both the state and nation are a far cry from those that would allow for ‘herd immunity.'” A Chicago pharmacist, Lizzette Perez, is quoted to showcase the increase in vaccine demand, saying, “In all the years I’ve been a pharmacist, I’ve never seen such a drastic desire to be vaccinated.”

        Bloomberg News (1/16, Pettypiece, Armstrong) reports, “CVS Caremark Corp. and Rite Aid Corp., two of the three largest US drugstore chains, said they are running out of influenza vaccines as an earlier and more severe flu season drives up demand” across the country, with Bloomberg News calling demand “unprecedented.” Rob Perry, a spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline, said, “It appears there’s enough flu vaccine out there, it’s just a matter of where it is,” and Bloomberg News adds that although the Food and Drug Administration “confirmed reports of spot shortages, government officials said there isn’t a widespread lack of vaccine supply.”

        HealthDay (1/16, Preidt) reports US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said on her blog, “We have received reports that some consumers have found spot shortages of the vaccine,” as well as more local shortages of Tamiflu. However, pharmacists around the country have received instruction on how to create the children’s version of Tamiflu from the adult version. Dr. Hamburg noted that it is “still not too late to get the flu shot to help protect you,” but “it takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop an immune response to provide protection against the flu.”