If you couldn’t find a place to get an influenza shot in the past few days, take heart — pharmacies and health clinics throughout Central Oregon are now stocking up on vaccine doses to meet the rise in demand.
Heather Kaisner, Deschutes County’s immunization coordinator, said people might need to call a few different locations to find doses of the vaccine. But there is no shortage. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand.
“People might need to be patient and persistent,” she said.
News from the Northeast — where hospitals are reporting record numbers of flu-related emergency room visits — has prompted people locally to seek shots for themselves and their families, Kaisner said. Yet this is typically the time of year when pharmacies and clinics ramp down their offerings.
Pharmacies and clinics look at previous years when deciding how many vaccine doses to order.
The U.S. experienced milder flu seasons the past two years, Kaisner said. Therefore fewer people got flu shots, and those who did usually received them before the official kickoff of the flu season in November.
“It’s like an art every year,” she said. “You don’t know what the season is going to be like until you’re into it.”
Now, Kaisner said, the Deschutes health department is hearing that most locales have ordered more vaccine.
The good news is the vaccine appears to be well-matched to deal with the flu virus strains circulating this year, the most prevalent being H3N2. Patricia Thomas, communicable disease coordinator for Deschutes County, said the vaccine matches 90 percent of the viruses seen thus far this season and is considered about 60 percent effective.
“We are still seeing breakthrough of people getting the flu who had a flu shot,” she said. “But if you get it, it’s not going to be as severe as if you hadn’t gotten the vaccine.”
Those seeking the vaccine should start by calling their primary care physician’s office, Kaisner said. After that, she suggests calling area pharmacies and asking when more doses might arrive if they’re out.
Parents seeking the vaccine for their children should begin with their pediatrician, she said. If the clinic doesn’t have the vaccine, staff there should know who does, as area pediatric offices and the health departments are communicating with each other.
So far, Oregon is experiencing a moderate flu season, the Oregon Health Authority announced in a news release Friday.
Aside from getting vaccinated, other flu prevention strategies include washing hands, covering the mouth when coughing, not touching the face, keeping a distance socially and staying home when sick.