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Flu Shot Supply Dwindling As New York Faces Public Health Emergency

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - With the flu epidemic hitting the Tri-State Area hard, many pharmacies have begun to run out of flu shot supplies.

But as CBS 2's Steve Langford reported, persistence has paid off for people in search of the vaccine. They have found that if at first they do not succeed, they simply need to try, and try again.

Even if every pharmacy in New York says it has run out of the flu vaccine, do not ever tell a Manhattan mother there is no flu shot for her child.

"Women's intuition," said Nick Davlen, "we double checked, and we found out they had children's."

A thrilled Davlen and her husband, Rob, made a successful visit to an urgent care facility – even though their 3-year-old was not so happy about that shot in the arm.

On Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency in New York State due to the flu.

But the pursuit of a flu shot has proved tricky. Earlier Sunday, Langford called a random sampling of a half-dozen pharmacies across Manhattan and found all of them were out of the vaccine.


At one CVS on the Upper West Side, they were all out of the vaccine but hope to have more doses by Tuesday. Several pharmacies we spoke to say they expect to receive new shipments of flu vaccine early this coming week.

Less than half of all Americans have received a flu shot.

"If we can get as many people in the community vaccinated it means that there's less people around to get the flu and give it to everyone else" said Dr. Mary O'Brien of Columbia University said.

At this point in the season there's not anywhere near enough flu vaccine even if half the nation could or would get a flu shot, Langford reported.

"I came in to get some prescriptions filled and I was counting on getting my flu shot and they are out of flu shots," a man told Langford.

WEB EXTRA: Find A Flu Shot

It also has been an incredibly busy weekend at medical clinics, where people are already experiencing symptoms of the flu.

"It's been the busiest weekend we've ever had," said Dr. Mark Melrose.

Melrose said his Upper West Side office has been overwhelmed with people from all ages suffering from the flu or flu-like symptoms.

"They come running for relief -- most of whom have not had a flu shot," Melrose said.

The doctor has some advice for us all.

"Don't go into work or school, where you'll spread it to everyone else you know," he said.

Nearly 20,000 cases of the flu have already been reported this year in New York, more than four times as many cases reported in all of last flu season.

WEB EXTRA: Find A Flu Shot

Still, amid the flu epidemic, Sunday Mass went on as usual at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Many parishioners said they were not deterred from shaking hands at Mass.

"I work out a lot so I feel like my immune system's fighting it anyways. I get more concerned about food, candidly. Make sure people have gloves on and things like that," a man told 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria.

Flu Shot Supply Dwindling As New York Faces Public Health Emergency

"Sometimes I use hand cleaner. But even when I don't, I'm not too worried about it," said another man.

Some had recommended bowing in place of shaking hands to try to minimize the spread of the flu.

"I just don't think that the flu can be contracted that way. You're just shaking hands and I think there has to be a moist surface," a parishioner told D'Auria.

Emergency rooms, doctor's offices, walk-in clinics all report that they are jammed with flu cases.

"On a typical day in prior years you would see maybe two, three flu cases a day and today we are seeing over 20 to 30, 40, 50 cases a day," CityMD Urgent Care Dr. Gary Mazer said.

In New York City, 10 adults have died due to the flu this season, according to officials. Adult deaths from the flu are not tracked statewide.

Concern over the growing flu epidemic has also caused a hospital in northern New Jersey to restrict who can visit patients.

Jersey City Medical Center has imposed restrictions on anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms and all children from visiting hospitalized patients.

The restrictions went into effect on Saturday and will remain in place indefinitely, according to the hospital.

A hospital spokesman said half of all emergency room cases at Jersey City Medical Center are flu-related.

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? Sound off in the comments section below...

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