Flu vaccine is in scant supply at pharmacies and doctors offices in Southampton and Bridgehampton, and it could be close to a week before they restock — if ever.
Meeting House Lane Medical Practice in Southampton Village ran out of vaccine Friday, and may not restock for the rest of flu seasion.
CVS in Southampton Village reported that flu shots ran out there on Thursday, and the pharmacy does not expect to get more until Thursday of next week.
"Due to high demand caused by the early outbreak of influenza, some of our locations may experience intermittent, temporary shortages of flu vaccine, but we still have vaccine in stock and we resupply our pharmacies and clinics as quickly as possible," said Mike DeAngelis, the director of public relations for CVS/pharmacy.
"We are administering more flu shots this season than last," DeAngelis said. "Last season, we administered over 2 million shots. This season, we’ve already administered 4 million shots."
A pharmacist at Rite Aid in Southampton said Friday morning that the store has enough to get through the day, and is trying to secure 15 or 20 more shots from another Rite Aid location to restock Saturday.
Flu shots are $29.99 at Rite Aids — or less with insurance — and available on a walk-in basis while in stock.
At the Rite Aid in the Bridgehampton Commons, a pharmacist said Friday morning that shots will run out in just a few hours, and he does not know how soon the store will be able to restock.
Area independent pharmacies, including Southrifty Drug in Southampton Village and Sag Harbor Pharmacy, do not administer flu shots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that 18 children nationally have died of flu so far this year, with cases reported in nearly every state.
A Long Island expert on infectious diseases Thursday urged parents to get their children and themselves vaccinated now as the flu turned into an epidemic.
Dr. Sunil K. Sood said the flu season is considerably worse this year than it has been in several years. “First, it started very early this year, and second, the number of cases has dramatically increased nationwide,” he said. “Third, of the three strains, one, H-3, is associated with a higher death rate.”
This year’s flu vaccine protects against three strains, H-1 and H-3, and a third, Type B. “H-3 gives you a much worse disease,” he said.
Sood, who is director of pediatrics at Southside Hospital and an attending doctor in infectious diseases at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, emphasized the need for children to be protected. And for others to be protected from small disease carriers. “I’ve been giving really passionate speeches to parents that it is really dangerous not to have vaccinated themselves and their children,” he said. “If you haven’t immunized your child even healthy kids can die. Children are the spreaders and they pass it on to older people as well.”
Those over 65 or with compromised immune systems are among the most vulnerable.
“It’s been recommended that every child over 6 months and adults get vaccinated but only 45 percent of children got vaccinated last year," Sood said. "That’s really, really sad."
And, he said, too many health workers don’t get vaccinated either, potentially jeopardizing patients.
Sood had answers to those arguing against the vaccination. “No vaccine is perfect, but this year is a very good vaccine,” he said. “It is impossible to get flu from the shot because it uses a killed virus. And yes, you can get influenza but it won’t be as bad or you could get another virus.”
As far as the timing, Sood said it is not too late. “People say the cat is out of the bag; the answer is: 'No, go get it today.' You still have some time. It takes about a week to start developing immunity, so it’s not too late. There is no shortage this year; every doctor’s office, every supermarket, has the vaccine. etc. There’s no excuse. And we don’t know how the long the season will last.”