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Need a Flu Shot? You Might Be Out of Luck

FOR THE RECORD: This story said the New Mexico Department of Health distributes 20,000 doses to its Vaccine for Children’s providers and 5,800 doses through public health offices. Those numbers are the dosages still available. The total amount of vaccine available from the DOH this season, including the above numbers, is 230,000 doses through the VFC program and 65,000 through public health offices.

Much like your chances of getting the flu, your chances of a getting a flu shot at this point are hit or miss.

So before you head out to your local pharmacy for the vaccine, you might want to phone ahead.

Recent media attention about the early onslaught of flu cases this year has caused a run on people seeking the flu vaccine. That means many local pharmacies are running short – but most say more supplies are on their way.

Calls on Monday to Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, as well as pharmacies in Smith’s, Albertsons and Targets, show that some had small supplies of flu vaccine still available, while others had run out.

Some pharmacy employees said they were expecting to be resupplied in a matter of days, others not until next week, and still others didn’t know when or if they will get more vaccine.

The situation isn’t so much a shortage of flu vaccine as much as it is a delay along the supply line, says Dr. David Stryker, medical director of infection control at Presbyterian Hospitals.

The strains of flu going around are no more potent than in past years, Stryker said. There’s just more of it, and the flu season seems to have started earlier.

“We’ve had more people with flu than in the last three years, and (this season) it started in mid-December, which is early for New Mexico,” Stryker said.

The good news is that the current vaccination formula is effective against most of the strains of flu now circulating, he said. And the fact that pharmacies and health care providers are running low indicates people are getting the message about the importance of getting vaccinated.

Vaccine supplies are also getting thin at Presbyterian hospitals and clinics, but according to Presbyterian spokeswoman Nikki Allcorn, an order for 1,000 doses is expected to arrive today.

A pharmacy employee at the Walgreens at San Pedro and Paseo del Norte NE said the store ran out late last week and was expecting to get more today or Wednesday. “There’s plenty of vaccine being produced, it’s just not getting out fast enough,” she said. “We did over 200 shots last week, which is just insane for us.”

The flu vaccine also ran out last Thursday at the CVS Pharmacy at Coors Bypass and Ellison NW. A pharmacy employee there said the store expected to get resupplied by the end of this week.

“We’ve given more than 400 shots since September just at this store,” she said. The majority of preventative inoculations are done in October and November. “It’s late in the season now, and, usually by this time, we’re winding down.”

The New Mexico Department of Health spokesman Kenny Vigil estimated that by the end of the 2012-13 flu season, manufacturers will have shipped about 721,000 doses of vaccine to sites throughout New Mexico. That includes 20,000 doses the Department of Health distributes to its Vaccine for Children’s providers, and 5,800 for distribution in public health offices.

Stryker says he expects the flu season to start winding down in two to three weeks, but he still recommends a flu shot for those who have not yet gotten one.

“You start getting protection the next day, but it takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to build up enough antibodies” for maximum protection.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal