Flu vaccines running low in many locations
January 16, 2013
Pharmacies across Summit County are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for flu vaccinations.
"We’re very low," said Joe Dratter, Park Avenue Fresh Market pharmacist. "The whole town is very low. A lot of places are only getting 10 to 30 doses at a time. And since everybody is looking for it, the doses go very quickly. So we’re trying to get them as frequently as we can."
Dratter recommended people get their flu vaccines early in the season.
"Since a lot of pharmacies do vaccinations, it’s really easy to walk up and get it done when you go early in the season. It’s painless and it takes maybe 15 minutes of your time," he said.
Early in the flu season, around September and October, the Fresh Market pharmacy carried several different flu vaccinations, such as the nasal spray and high dose, but now they are down to only the multi-dose intramuscular vaccine, Dratter said.
"Call and make sure we have it, and if we do, then we’ll be happy to administer it," he said.
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Pharmacies around the county have run out of vaccines for children, according to Carolyn Rose, Summit County Health Department nursing director.
Unlike many pharmacies, however, the Summit County Health Department still has plenty of vaccinations available.
"We have it all the way from six months through adults," Rose said. "We have a limited number of the high dose vaccine for 65 and older, but they can still have the regular vaccine."
Rose said they have had a lot of people coming in to get vaccinated this year.
"The flu season started a tad early and it’s been advertised in the media, so a lot of people have been coming in," she said. "It also depends on how many people get sick, and this year there seems to be a lot of people really sick with the flu. Statewide there has been a definite increase in influenza-like illnesses, people testing positive for influenza, and there has also been an increase in hospitalizations."
Rose recommends people still come in for vaccinations, to avoid missing work and school, and to avoid being in bed for seven to 10 days.
Additionally, she encourages those who feel they don’t usually get the flu, or don’t get it severely, to still get flu shots to avoid spreading the flu to those who are young, elderly or immuno-compromised.
"Most of us have friends or family that might be on chemotherapy or have severe heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or we simply have a grandma, grandpa or babies in the family. So we should try to protect them as well as ourselves," she said.
Park City Medical Center Emergency Department Medical Director Kris Kemp said Summit County is experiencing influenza rates similar to the rest of the nation.
"It’s definitely in full force," he said. "We’re seeing about a quarter of our patients daily have flu-like illnesses. Some are sicker than others, and most are treated as outpatients."
If patients come in within 48 to 72 hours, they can receive Tamiflu, an antivirus medication that helps to shorten or lessen symptoms.
"The nice thing about our immune systems is that our bodies can, for the most part, fight off viruses. Because of that, most people do pretty well. A few children have suffered this year from fatal cases, but that is quite rare, thankfully because of the flu vaccine," he said.
He acknowledged that, historically, the flu has been a deadly virus that has caused world-wide pandemics, such as the 1918 flu pandemic.
"That’s why it’s so scary," he said. "It’s a smart little bug that likes to change its genetics. It’s an ever-moving part. And because of that, it can be sneaky and you have to be vigilant in trying to manage it on the front end. The flu needs to be respected. That’s why vaccines are so heavily promoted in communities. Sometimes we do well, and sometimes we don’t. This year looks OK."
Kemp said this year’s vaccine has done a good job targeting strains. Two of the three strains used in the vaccine have shown the highest activity across the nation.
To avoid contracting the flu, Kemp recommends washing hands regularly and using hand sanitizer, avoid contact with sick people and wear a mask if you start to feel sick or if you are in a public place around potentially sick people.
"We’re social animals and we like to share things, including illness," he said. "Do what you can to take care of yourself. No one should live in a bubble by any means. But you can take precautions to be safe and keep yourself and your loved ones well. That doesn’t mean move to the back hills and don’t talk to people for six months, by any means."
Locations and hours to receive flu vaccines can be found at http://www.immunize-utah.org/apps/flu/ .