Flu vaccine is in scant supply at many pharmacies in the Port Jefferson area, and it could be days before they restock — if ever. At clinics and doctor’s offices though, the supplies seem to be flowing and many are accepting walk-in patients with or without insurance.
Where there is a short supply, doctors and pharmacies are putting the blame on a number of factors, including super storm Sandy.
“The problem is with Sandy a lot of people lost vaccinations,” said Dr. Amy Goldberg, a Lake Grove pediatrician associated with both John T. Mather and St. Charles Hospitals in Port Jefferson.
Dr. Goldberg said many places without power lost their stock because they weren't able to keep them refrigerated.
“People had lost two to three hundred orders of flu vaccinations,” she said.
The flu vaccine must be kept refrigerated or it’s not viable, according to Dr Goldberg.
Local pharmacy chains are reporting that supplies are very limited or entirely gone.
When called, the CVS Pharmacy at Port Plaza said they still had a supply and that individuals could walk-in but larger families might have to wait before getting the shot.
The CVS Pharmacy on Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station said that they just ran out and don’t know when they are getting more.
“Check back on Monday or Tuesday,” said a person who answered the phone at the pharmacy.
The CVS on Main Street in Port Jefferson village is also out of their supply of flu shots and they are trying to get a shipment over the weekend but most likely will not get any more until Wednesday.
A spokesperson from CVS Pharmacy said that they have given double the amount of flu shots so far this year as all of last year.
“Last season, we administered over 2 million shots,” said Mike DeAngelis, a spokesperson for the company. “This season, we’ve already administered 4 million shots.”
Rite Aid has two locations in Port Jefferson Station. TheRite Aid in Jefferson Plaza reported having a supply of about 20 to 30 shots as of Friday afternoon but no more shipments are expected. The location on Old Town Road has a limited supply.
“We may be getting more,” said the pharmacist. “Some but not that much.”
CVS and Rite Aid both reported getting a decent amount of people coming in for shots.
Fairview Pharmacy and Homecare Supply, an independent store in Port Jefferson Station, reported that they do not issue flu shots.
Meanwhole, area walk-in clinics seem to be fairing better.
A person who answered the phone at Stat-Health on Nesconset Highway in Port Jefferson Station said they have shots and accept walk-in patients.
For those without insurance or if health insurance doesn’t cover the flu shot the charge is $25 at Stat-Health.
At North Shore Immediate Medical Care on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, Office Manager Ann Mitromaras said that they have plenty of shots available.
“We don’t over-order,” said Mitromaras. “When we get low I order more.”
She said they usually get a delivery the next day.
A shot costs $30 at North Shore Immediate Medical Care if insurance doesn’t cover it.
Stuart Vincent at Mather Hospital said that they are seeing a “greatly increased number of influenza patients in the Emergency Room.”
Vincent said that most patients are treated and sent home.
To help prevent the spread of the flu in the hospital patients are asked to put on a mask and isolated immediately.
“If a patient is admitted, they are placed on isolation so our patients and staff will not catch the flu,” Vincent said.
Mather had enough shots but issues flu shots only to its employees and to patients admitted to the hospital.
Marilyn Fabbricante, a spokesperson from St. Charles Hospital, said that they have also been seeing an increase in patients coming to the Emergency Department with the flu. The hospital doesn't have shots available to the public but provides them to paitents and employees.
The difference in availability might also have to do with the brand of flu shot. Dr. Goldberg said that she saw a shortage in some brands and had to order alternatives.
CNN reported on Thursday that drug companies that make the flu vaccines are insisting they have plenty of supply to go around.
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.
With the rise in reported cases more people are heading to the doctors offices and pharmacies for the shot.
“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of flu there will be more parents coming in,” said Dr. Goldberg. Not every parent heeds her advice to get the shot.
“No matter how much I encourage it they just won’t do it,” she said.