Flu shot urgency is working as some run out of vaccine

Bay Area leaders and health care professionals have been urging people to get their flu shots for weeks.

The message appears to be working, perhaps a little too well.
The pharmacy inside Target in Alameda says it ran out of the flu vaccine for people 64 years of age and younger for a few days last week.

It now is fully stocked.

And recently this CVS pharmacy in Orinda was out of a high dose vaccine for those 65 and up. It too has been able to replenish its supply.

UC Berkeley Professor of Public Health John Swartzberg says he couldn't get the type of high dose flu shot he wanted. He settled for a different dose of flu vaccine from his doctor in Berkeley.

"The doctor's office had a difficult time finding it. My wife had to call several pharmacies before she could find the one that was optimal for her," Swartzberg said.

But health professionals and pharmacies say that while some places may run out of flu shots temporarily. There is not a shortage of flu vaccine.

They say any disruptions in the supply chain are in the distribution process. But places shouldn't be out of stock for more than a day or two.

"Everybody is asking for the vaccines. How they are being allocated is perhaps not as smoothly done as it should be," Swartzberg says.

"We should not be concerned," says Dr. Jeffrey Silvers, an infectious disease specialist with Sutter Health. "There were some early delays in some deliveries. And two there is probably an increase in demand for vaccines this year because of COVID."

CVS, the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., says it has ordered 18 million flu vaccines. That is twice what it ordered in 2019.
And the pharmacy says it has already given out 9 million flu shots so far this year. That's as many as it administered all of last year.

"Sometimes a store runs out at any given time. So we refer those patients to a nearby location or we will get the vaccine at that location as soon as possible," says Eleanor Wong, the CVS district manager of San Francisco and Marin County.

But temporary outages or not, the message remains the same: People should get their flu shots, even if they have to call around to find a place that has the vaccine.

"The last thing we want is for people to get COVID and the flu at the same time. And they are hard to differentiate. And if you get them both together it could be a devastating result," says Silvers.