Flu shots are going fast in the Three Village area.
At CVS, shots are out of stock, while an hour-long wait is expected at Rite Aid, according to one employee. Stop and Shop, which started Friday with a stock of 20, had gone through half of them by late morning and Target has been experiencing a similar high demand for the vaccine.
"At this point, they are going fast," said one employee at Rite Aid, where flu shots are $29.99 without insurance, and are available on a walk-in basis. Shots will be given until 7:30 p.m. "It's a really long wait."
A CVS employee said another vaccine shipment may not arrive until next Friday, if at all. "With the epidemic now, I'm not sure if we will be getting anything," she said.
One pharmacist at Target said "We have a decent supply, but we are also giving a lot." The Target pharmacy is closed from 1:30 to 2 p.m. for lunch, and is open again until 9 p.m.
Wal-Mart has not served flu shots since October.
Employees interviewed declined to give their names, citing corporate policies about speaking with the press.
The high local demand for flu shots is not limited to Three Village.
According to Google's map of flu trends across the country, New York is in the grips of an "intense" flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called this flu season is one of the earliest and most deadly in years, causing the death of 18 children across the country.
"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 Long Island expert on infectious diseases Thursday urged parents to get their children and themselves vaccinated now.
The North Shore-LIJ Hospital system, including Huntington Hospital, said Thursday that hospital visits were up 20-30 percent because of the disease.
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 six 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.
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.
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