Deaths caused by influenza in 2013 reached epidemic levels late last week, according to a report in the New York Times, but the government-run Center for Disease Control (CDC) says it may have peaked.
Either way, the organization says those who have yet to receive a flu shot should still do so, as the current outbreak continues to work its way through the country. The height of flu season is February, according to the CDC.
The good news, pointed out Bernards Township Health Officer Lucy Forgione, is that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the flu vaccine is a very good match for the strains of flu circulating in the community and early data indicates that individuals who are vaccinated have been 62 percent less likely to visit a doctor due to illness from the flu.
All data at this point indicates that circulating strains of influenza — H1N1 and the more predominant H3N2 — are covered by the current vaccine, Forgione said, quoting information from the CDC.
While the CDC says this season's flu vaccine is anywhere between 50 and 70 percent effective, the inoculation is hard to come by in the northern Somerset County area.
Employees at CVS on Milltown Road in Bridgewater said it does not have the vaccine currently. They said more should be coming in, but representatives don't have an exact time table.
At the Rite Aid, on Route 202/206 in Bridgewater, they are starting a wait list for those interested in getting inoculated because they are also out of the vaccine, as of Saturday. They are expecting more to arrive at the store by the end of the week.
But at this point, the pharmacy is taking the names and numbers of those looking to get the vaccine, and they will be contacted on a first come first serve basis once the vaccine arrives.
To get your name on the list, call Rite Aid at 908-722-8123, and connect to the pharmacy.
And the CVS on Route 202/206 in Bedminster is also out of the vaccine at this point, and doesn't know when more will be coming in.
This is not unusual, as all three Rite Aid pharmacies in the Somerset Hills are out of the vaccine and expecting shipments, including the ones on Allen Road and Lyons Mall in Basking Ridge and Morristown Road in Bernardsville.
Nidhi Mehta, a pharmacist at the Rite Aid on Allen Road, said the flu shot supply ran out last week, and the pharmacy is expecting additional vaccines this week. Those interested in getting inoculated can call the pharmacy at 908-470-2745, ext. 3.
Bridgewater Township is offering the vaccine during two clinics Jan. 17 and Jan. 24, also on a first come first serve basis. The Bernards Township Health Department, which is also contracted as the health department for Far Hills and Bernardsville, recently held its final clinic and distributed the last of its vaccines.
Instead, the Bernards Health Department — which also is the local health agency for Bernardsville Far Hills, Long Hill Township and other communities — is referring people to the Visiting Nurse Association of Somerset Hills in Basking Ridge. Unfortunately, at this point, the VNA also reports that it out of vaccines.
Paula Some, communications director for the VNA, said consumers can go to the NJ Department of Health website to find nearby flu clinics.
Bedminster Township's health department is handled by the county, which is planning to hold a flu clinic, although a date has not officially been set yet.
The Somerset Medical is offering flu vaccines Jan. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the facility on Rehill Avenue in Somerville. The cost is $20, but free to individuals who present their Medicare Part B card.
No registration is required, but the vaccine will be given on a first come first serve basis.
The current strand of influenza ravaging the nation has claimed the lives of 20 children, the New York Times reported. In a typical year, the report said, just 37 percent of Americans receive the inoculation.