County health officials cut short flu vaccinations Thursday and canceled today's previously announced inoculations because they ran out of the vaccine.
A steady stream of people, many at high risk for the influenza virus, was turned away when the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department's first shipment of vaccine enough for 1,200 doses was depleted about 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
"There are people who drove in from all over the county, and they're going away angry," said the Rev. Richard C. Fraley, 67, of Lawrence. The retired United Methodist minister said he suffers congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma and chronic bronchitis. He said he relies on bottled oxygen 24 hours a day.
"These are all (conditions) that are life-threatening, if I would get the flu," said Fraley, after arriving about 5 p.m. too late for a shot. The department had planned to offer shots until 7 p.m.
People were lining up 30 minutes before the clinics opened Thursday, said Elaine Houston, Health Department registered nurse.
Lines moved quickly and 1,200 people were vaccinated at Babcock Place and the Health Department before supplies ran out.
The depleted supplies were from the first of several flu vaccine shipments expected to arrive incrementally at the Health Department this year. Because of a nationwide manufacturing delay, an order of 7,000 doses of the vaccine will be distributed gradually, with a quarter of them arriving after Dec. 1, close to prime flu season.
Health Department officials said they understand the frustration caused by the shortages. But they urged patience, reminding the public that November and December are still not too late to get a shot.
"It's really not a shortage, it's just a delay," Houston said.
Fraley said he had been unable to get the shot through Lawrence doctors.
"I just called the doctor's office, and they said, 'We're not going to get any,'" he said. "I said, 'Gosh I've gotten them here five years.' They said, 'We don't have any and won't be getting any.'"
But Health Department officials say they should receive another shipment soon. They probably will announce early next week when and where shots are next available through the agency, Houston said.
Those at high risk for the virus should get the vaccine before the healthier portion of the population. High-risk patients include those age 65 and older, people with chronic health problems, their household members and health-care workers. These groups are at higher risk for influenza-related complications or potentially capable of transmitting the virus to a high-risk person.