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The Shortage of Flu Vaccine Drives the Price Up

The flu season is almost here, and while the long-delayed vaccines are finally starting to arrive, those who need it the most are running short of time. CBS reporter Hattie kauffman has more.

Once you get a shot, it can take up to two weeks for the full protection to kick in. This is serious business. Every year 20 thousand people die from the flu. So for the elderly, who are considered at high risk, waiting for the flu vaccine has been a long, anxiety-filled wait.

Under a hot Arizona sun, seniors line up when they hear flu shots are available. Most have been searching all over town for a shot. Some say they have waited for more than two months, and others would call the clinics all over to see if the vaccine has arrived.

The line snakes into a grocery store that's also become an emergency vaccine clinic. Eleanor LaFlamme, the nurse says that their supply is just in. "We're usually out way back in October, and we'd probably be done now, by Thanksgiving."

J.W. Hicks has diabetes and cannot wait much longer. For him, catching the flu could be fatal. His wife Delores made finding the flu shot her mission. "I was calling, calling, and calling. I finally found this place. I said we'd come here Wednesday, if you don't have it here, we'll find someplace where we can get it."

Dr. Art Mollen knows how critical the shot can be for high-risk patients. His phone's ringing off the hook with requests. "Normally there are 114,000 hospitalizations due to influenza. This year, I think that there will be many more people who will be seriously ill because they contract the influenza." No question about it that more people will die because of the vaccine shortage."

Across the country, flu outbreaks have begun. The delay of vaccine was caused when several manufacturers had problems growing the vaccine, and when one manufacturer shut down, it made a bad situation worse, leading to the shortage of flu vaccines across the country.

Back in Dr. Mollen's office in Phoenix, Arizona, a vital shipment of vaccine has arrived. "This does help deliver about 10,000 shots throughout the state of Arizona," says Mollen.

For seventy-seven-year-old Esther Schultz who has asthma, it is good news that the waiting is finally over. "It seems like I've been waiting forever," says Schultz.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging younger folks, those under 65 and healthy to wait. Don't get a flu shot until the elderly and those at high risk get theirs first.

With so many people desperate for the vaccine, short supply and high demand have driven the costs way up. The doctor in Arizona told us that some manufacturers were asking up to six times the normal price. A $25-dollar vial is going for $150. Some who ordered the vaccine months ago still haven't gotten it. While those who paid the higher prices just got them in.

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