Doctors: No flu vaccine shortage


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 10 at 4:48 PM

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- St. David's Health Care system reports eight flu-related deaths in its Travis County hospitals during December. Numbers like that had people heading to their neighborhood pharmacies to get flu shots, and some are experiencing supply and demand problems.

Despite these problems, doctors said there is no shortage of the vaccine. The bad news, however, is that the age range this flu is affecting may send more people in search of a flu shot.

Not far from the Scott & White emergency room in Round Rock, several area residents, including Terry Moore of Temple and Jerome Clark of Round Rock, said they hadn't received flu shots yet this season.

That's not what emergency room doctors want to hear. They said while it's usually people over 65 and kids under five most at risk for flu, this particular strain of H1N1 that's come early this year is hitting a different age range hard.

"Some of the sickest people we're seeing with the flu are young and healthy people, 40- to 50-year-old people," said Ross Tobleman, M.D., the medical director at the emergency department at Scott & White in Round Rock.  "For whatever reason, they just get really, really sick with this strain of the flu."
Tobleman said because more people could come down with this particular strain of flu, it's sending more people in search of a shot.

"There's not a national shortage of flu vaccine, but there is intermittent shortages in certain pharmacies based on demand," Tobleman said. "Some of the places that are popular, you drive by a Walgreens and say, 'Hey, I should get a flu shot.' Well, everybody's driving by a Walgreens thinking they should get a flu shot.  Going to Walgreens, CVS, H-E-B, is easier than making an appointment with your clinic to go in and get the vaccine."

Tobleman said by making that appointment, patients can assure themselves of getting a flu shot. Some people KVUE spoke to have taken that advice to heart.

"I was sick here recently, so it made me rethink things, like, I should have taken one earlier this year," said Clark.

"I'm glad that I've gotten the shot," said Felicia Rodriguez, a Kyle resident. "A lot of people have gotten sick and ended up in the hospital with the flu turning into pneumonia, so I don't regret it."

Tobleman said the flu shot is only about 70 percent effective, and the virus can live on things like shopping carts and door handles for days. Doctors say that even people who have received the shot should still take precautions, like washing their hands and avoiding touching their face.

Health News Video
More Video