Regular flu shots hard to find in NorthlandAs swine flu empties Northland classrooms and the public frets about late delivery of the H1N1 vaccine, many local residents are surprised to learn that the run-of-the-mill seasonal flu vaccine also is in short supply.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
As swine flu empties Northland classrooms and the public frets about late delivery of the H1N1 vaccine, many local residents are surprised to learn that the run-of-the-mill seasonal flu vaccine also is in short supply.
Though seasonal flu kills people at a higher rate than the swine flu has done, supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine have been pinched by attention diverted to swine flu.
Concern about the H1N1 virus also has spurred interest in the seasonal vaccine, health-care workers say.
“The demand for the vaccine is high,” said Kim Newman, director of pharmacy operations for Falk’s Pharmacy. “The media has everyone hyped up, flu season is coming earlier this year, and [customers] are anxious.”
Falk’s Pharmacy canceled all of its October flu clinics because it ran out of vaccine. Falk’s ordered about 4,000 doses this year for its seven retail stores and the assisted living homes to which it distributes, Newman said.
When its remaining shipments arrive, the company — which has received plenty of calls from anxious retail customers and from elderly residents in assisted living — will notify the public through signs and the media.
Patients of Duluth’s Northland Family Physicians are frustrated, said clinic manager Cindy Erlemeier. The clinic is also out of vaccine and is afraid by the time its next 300 doses arrive that patients will have gone elsewhere.
“The bigger places always seem to get it first, and patients are saying they are going to grab it the first place they can get it,” which is understandable, she said.
The clinic ran out quickly because it started vaccinating early.
Seasonal flu kills about 600 people in Minnesota each year. Twelve people in Minnesota have died from the H1N1 virus.
“Seasonal flu is more risky,” said Guy Peterson, head of public health services for St. Louis County.
Peterson said manufacturers only made 70 percent of the seasonal flu vaccine that was ordered before stopping to begin making H1N1 vaccine. The remaining 30 percent should be complete in November, he said, and shipments to providers should come in soon.
“With the whole heightened awareness of flu, data is showing more people are getting shots this year,” Peterson said.
Despite flu clinic cancellations, he advises calling providers every week to see if the vaccine is available, and to ask for a notification when it’s in.
The weekly H1N1 update from the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday showed a jump in the number of school outbreaks last week, with 288 schools reporting such incidents, up from 230 the previous week. The number of hospitalizations last week was 225, up from 162.
Two H1N1-related deaths were reported last week: an adult with no underlying conditions and an adolescent with a health condition. Both were in southern Minnesota.