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Flu Shots Getting Scarce and Hard to Find

Local pharmacies are reporting dwindling stock following a health advisory issued Thursday.

Getting a flu shot today, or even next week, might be a big challenge as local drugstores are reporting record numbers of residents asking for the vaccine.

The CVS on Montauk Highway in Bayport ran out of the shot Friday late morning after a crowd of about 20 filled the pharmacy, according to a store employee who said as of Friday there was no more shipments due into that location this season.

In Sayville, the CVS is also out of stock but another shipment is due in on Monday, according to a store employee. Residents are encouraged to call ahead as there is no scheduled delivery time.

At Walgreens in Sayville the pharmacy had a small supply left by noon Friday but it was dwindling fast, according to a pharmacy employee and future stock levels are uknown.

“We will be going day to day in terms of stock and people should call ahead,” said the Walgreens employee.

A corporate spokesperson for CVS said more supplies will be forthcoming to Long Island locations.

"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," Mike DeAngelis, public relations director for the pharmacy chain, told Patch.

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.

"We are administering more flu shots this season than last. Last season, we administered over 2 million shots. This season, we’ve already administered 4 million shots," DeAngelis said.

The flu shot is also often available at primary care physicians and pediatricians offices.

A Long Island expert on infectious diseases Thursday urged parents to get their children and themselves vaccinated now.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 18 children nationally have died of flu so far this year, with cases reported in nearly every state. And 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. 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.”

Sood is also professor of Pediatrics and Family Medicine, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

Associate Regional Editor Pam Robinson and Regional Editor Henry Powderly contributed to this report.

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