Flu vaccines available but harder to find

Jan. 11, 2013 at 8:57 PM
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ATLANTA, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- With U.S. influenza widespread and some cities reporting crowded hospital emergency rooms, some may have to shop around for a flu shot, officials say.

"At this point flu vaccine may be harder to find now than it was earlier in the season," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in a statement. "You may need to contact more than one provider such as a pharmacy, health department, or doctor to find available vaccine. The flu vaccine locator at www.flu.gov might be helpful to you in your search."

The website's Flu Vaccine Finder locates flu vaccine via ZIP code and lists retail stores that provide flu shots with addresses, phone numbers and driving directions.

Drug manufacturers made 135 million doses of the seasonal flu vaccine and about 128 million have been distributed, with 112 million people inoculated by around New Year's Day, a CDC spokesman said. Currently, 37 percent of the population has been vaccinated, but that will go up as more get vaccinated. This is typical of other years.

"We're hearing of spot shortages of the vaccine so if you haven't been vaccinated and want to be, better late than never, but call your provider ahead of time you may have to check in several places to find the vaccine because most of them, more than 130 million doses that were produced by the vaccine manufacturers this year have already been given," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, told reporters in a telephone news conference.

"We don't have specific data about where vaccine is and who has which vaccine. I guess the message is that a lot of the vaccine in the United States has been given by this time of the year by a lot of the doctor's offices -- so it may be that you have to call a couple places to find the vaccine when you go out, but it should be available for you."

There have been some issues with finding -- in some places, occasionally -- pediatric formulation for Tamiflu -- a liquid. Those are spot shortages as well and the company is working hard along with Food and Drug Administration to remedy that, Frieden said.

"They have issued guidelines now and it's available in the FDA website -- and accessible through the CDC website -- guidelines for taking the 75 milligram tablets, which is the strength you give adults, and creating a pediatric formulation with that. I think there are some things we can do despite if you can't find the pediatric formulation, you can reconstitute it. Your pharmacist can reconstitute it from the adult-sized pills as well," Frieden said.

We have heard there's no shortage in the adult pills of Tamiflu it's just the pediatric liquid formation, but the FDA is monitoring this closely, Frieden said.

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