Motivated by warnings of early and severe flu outbreaks, droves of people went to Lawrence physicians and clinics for flu vaccines last month. Now the vaccine is in short supply locally and national drug manufacturers say they have none left.
If you planned on getting a flu vaccination this fall and haven't done so yet, you may have to make a few calls to find a physicians with vaccine.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department ran out of vaccine Nov. 2 after providing about 4,800 shots. Some national drug manufacturers have exhausted their supplies of flu vaccine, and some local physicians are also running low or have run out.
The county health department still has a small amount of vaccine reserved for children scheduled to come in for a second shot but otherwise can provide no new vaccinations, said Kay Kent, director of the health department. Adults ordinarily receive one shot, but children receive a series of two shots.
Kent said demand was higher this year because of widespread media reports about concerns that flu outbreaks would come earlier and be more severe this year. The department annually promotes flu vaccinations during October and provided 4,592 this October, a 41 percent increase compared to last October, said Barbara Schnitker, the health department's director of nurses.
Public health officials recommend that people over 65 and younger people with certain chronic health conditions get the flu vaccine. Schnitker said that 30 percent of the vaccines administered by the county health department in October went to people over 65.
Some local private physicians said they still had plenty of flu vaccine on hand. But others said they were running out.
"We've had more of our patients who want the flu shot and we've had more calls inquiring about it," said Stephanie Amick, a nurse at Lawrence Internal Medicine, a private practice. She said the practice is just about out of flu vaccine after administering about 1,200 doses. Last year the practice administered 1,000 doses.
"We've reordered twice," Amick said. "This is it when we're done. Our suppliers don't have any more. There's been much more publicity this year than what there has been in past years."
Additionally, Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly, is covering some of the cost of flu vaccinations this year, and that has added to the demand, Amick said.
Parke-Davis, the company that supplied the health department's vaccine this year, has none left, Schnitker said.
Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories is also out of vaccine, said Audrey Ashby, a spokeswoman for the Radnor, Pa., pharmaceutical company. Wyeth-Ayerst manufactured 20 million vaccine doses for this fall's flu season, she said.
Flu outbreaks typically begin in December, but health officials have been actively monitoring for the flu because of two outbreaks in August in Louisiana.
Because of those outbreaks the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccination programs be completed by the end of October rather than by mid-November, as is usually recommended.
So far there have been no reported cases of flu in Kansas this fall, according to the state Department of Health and Environment.