While news of a brutal flu season has many in Kings Park running to get their flu shots, inventory of the vaccine in town is running low, pharmacies say.
At the CVS in Kings Park, the store was out of the vaccination Friday, but was expecting more to arrive next week. Nearby Rite Aid still had shots left, but an employee there said they were running low. They also were expecting more next week.
Commack's Target store was completely out of shots, but an employee there said they expect a shipment of the vaccines to arrive at 3 p.m. on Friday.
The only pharmacy with a steady supply was CVS on Commack Road, and a staffer there said the pharmacy will be giving out shots between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. today.
But that may not be the same case for all area CVS stores.
"Due to high demand caused by the early outbreak of influenza, some of our locations may experience intermittent, temporary shortages of flu vaccine, but we still have vaccine in stock and we resupply our pharmacies and clinics as quickly as possible," Mike DeAngelis, public relations director for the pharmacy chain, told Patch.
Catherine Shannon, a family nurse practioner and Director of Infection Prevention and Control at St. Catherine's Hospital in Smithtown said the hospital was immunizing staff and patients and family members of maternity patients, but not the public.
"We have a lot of the vaccine, but not available to the public at this time," said Shannon. The hospital had a health fair in October and gave free flu and pertussiss immunizations to more than 200 people.
According to Google's map of flu trends across the country, New York is in the grips of an "intense" flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called this flu season is one of the earliest and most deadly in years, causing the death of 18 children across the country.
"We are administering more flu shots this season than last. Last season, we administered over 2 million shots. This season, we’ve already administered 4 million shots," DeAngelis said.
A Long Island expert on infectious diseases Thursday urged parents to get their children and themselves vaccinated now.
The North Shore-LIJ Hospital system, including Huntington Hospital, said Thursday that hospital visits were up 20-30 percent because of the disease.
Dr. Sunil K. Sood said the flu season is considerably worse this year than it has been in several years. “First, it started very early this year, and second, the number of cases has dramatically increased nationwide,” he said. “Third, of the three strains, one, H-3, is associated with a higher death rate.”
This year’s flu vaccine protects against three strains, H-1 and H-3, and a third, Type B. “H-3 gives you a much worse disease,” he said.
Sood, who is director of pediatrics at Southside Hospital and an attending doctor in infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, emphasized the need for children to be protected. And for others to be protected from small disease carriers.
“I’ve been giving really passionate speeches to parents that it is really dangerous not to have vaccinated themselves and their children,” he said. “If you haven’t immunized your child even healthy kids can die. Children are the spreaders and they pass it on to older people as well.”
Those over 65 or with compromised immune systems are among the most vulnerable.
“It’s been recommended that every child over six months and adults get vaccinated but only 45 percent of children got vaccinated last year," Sood said. "That’s really, really sad."
And, he said, too many health workers don’t get vaccinated either, potentially jeopardizing patients.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
As far as the timing, Sood said it is not too late. “People say the cat is out of the bag; the answer is: 'No, go get it today.' You still have some time. It takes about a week to start developing immunity, so it’s not too late. There is no shortage this year; every doctor’s office, every supermarket, has the vaccine. etc. There’s no excuse. And we don’t know how the long the season will last.”
Sood is also professor of Pediatrics and Family Medicine, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.
Associate Regional Editor Pam Robinson contributed to this report.