A grocery store in southern New Jersey has reportedly already given out at least 120 vaccines in the past week. A doctor a few miles from the store, however, still hasn't gotten his shipment.
"Why they have the vaccine before physicians' offices, I don't have a clue," says William Madison, MD, who usually gives his patients the vaccine in September and October. This year, however, he's not sure when he'll do it.
"When they [patients] show up and we see what they're here for, we politely tell them to reschedule," says Madison.
While it may be a fluke that some private retailers have gotten the vaccine first, such incidents have frustrated many hospitals, clinics and county health departments around the country.
Each year, federal health officials choose three strains of the virus for new inoculations, but one of this year's strains proved difficult to produce.
"Normally, you would have one strain that produces higher than average, which would compensate, but this year, it just didn't work out that way," says Jim Robinson of Adventis-Pasteur. "It really is the luck of the draw."
Health officials are currently urging only the high-risk populations to get a flu shot at this time. High-risk groups include people over age 65, those with weakened immune systems or those with heart of lung disease
"We're asking healthy people to defer their vaccination until later in the season so that the first available vaccine can to go those who are at high risk," says Nancy Cox of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The worst part of the flu season usually happens between January and March. If the pharmaceutical firms can come up with enough vaccine by the end of December, experts there will be plenty of time to get immunized.
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