Flu Vaccine Supplies Still Spotty
While the influenza vaccine has been scarce these days, visits to the emergency room at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital were way up last month.
Almost 497 patients came to the hospital Emergency Department with flulike symptoms in October, compared with a mere 25 in the same month last year. These statistics are contained in the latest newsletter to FirstHealth leaders by CEO Charles Frock.
After a week of almost nonexistent vaccine supplies, clinic schedules had reappeared on a special Web site by Wednesday. All were offering the H1N1 flu vaccine. No clinics were scheduled for the seasonal flu vaccine.
Clinics were scheduled at several drugstores in Moore County today, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
Thousands of people have already received vaccinations against seasonal and H1N1 viruses, but drug manufacturers were not able to produce sufficient supplies to cover the demand as early as usual this year. Delays and shortages are blamed on the unexpected appearance of the H1N1 virus, originally known as the swine flu.
The H1N1 flu caused manufacturers to divert attention to the new variety, causing a slowdown in production of vaccine to stave off the other viruses collectively known as seasonal flu.
FirstHealth administered more than 1,770 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine to employees and has begun administering the H1N1 vaccine to high-priority areas within the hospitals. Twenty nurses employed by FirstHealth have been working with the Moore County Health Department to vaccinate thousands of school children against the H1N1 virus.
The H1N1 vaccine has largely been directed toward the target population, including children, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems. Clinics for seasonal flu vaccine were held at doctors' offices, drugstores and other businesses earlier this fall.
Only recently has the H1N1 vaccine become available through these sources. Earlier this week, no vaccine for any flu virus was available, and the Web site, www.flu.gov, listed no clinics at all in Moore County.
"We get calls every day for the regular vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine," said Aiesha Blue, pharmacy technician at Walgreen's in Aberdeen, on Tuesday.
Blue said the drugstore was waiting for a shipment of vaccine and advised interested residents to check Walgreen's advertising sources, especially the electronic billboard. A day later the shipment arrived.
In addition to the Aberdeen Walgreen's, flu clinics were also scheduled at Quality Care Pharmacy and the Prescription Shoppe, both in Seven Lakes, and Town Center Pharmacy, in Southern Pines.
Although drugstores have received shipments this week, most report that they are small, and residents are reminded to call the drugstore before driving to the clinic, just to make sure the supply is sufficient.
Health providers are advising the public to fight the virus in such practical ways as frequent hand-washing. The public is also advised to stay home if sick and to avoid people with symptoms of flu.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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