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My Odyssey: Hunting for a flu shot

by Angeline Booher / October 7, 2004 3:18 AM PDT

Being in the priority group, I first checked with the office of my physician. Like last year, they would be given in the pharmacy located in the same Doctor's building. I made several attempts by phone to check on their supply, if any. But each time trying the phone menu - "To speak to a pharmacy staff member, press 4." Pressing 4, the connection was lost.... "If you want to dial a number, please hang up and dial again."

I then took the option (was it "press 5?"), I left a message re: my question, and my phone #. I never got a reply.

So, yesterday I called a supermarket that was said to have the vaccine. I was told the shots would be given Mom-Fri from 10 to 4.

So my like wise friend and I headed for the supermarket this morning, arriving at 9:40. They had had only 13 doses, and those were gone.

So we headed to the pharmacy at KMart. There a sign said they would not be given until Oct. 15. The very nice lady at the customer service desk let us use the phone books and phone, where I again tried the first pharmacy. This time I got an answer... "Call back next week". Then I called the nearest Public Health clinic. They would not be giving the shots until Oct. 18.

Then the lady at the service counter said she heard they were being given at a local minor emergency clinic. Stopping at the first one, the sign said they regretted they would be giving no flu shots this season.

On to the next minor emergency one. Huzzah! There was a line of no more than 2-3 dozen people. Some of those folks had been making the same rounds.

In past years I have usually waited until the middle of October, and during a shortage, it was in the first week in November before any was available. . But in my locality the official word has been to "start looking for a supply now!"

The nasal mist mode is available, but may not be covered by insurance. The vaccine for children, made by a different company, is available.

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Re: My Odyssey: Hunting for a flu shot
by MKay / October 7, 2004 3:43 AM PDT

I wish you luck with securing a place to get a shot. Maybe your Dr. can get you in somewhere. I am fortunate , I am getting one next week . My daughter who is an auditor for the state and her family and her parents are included if need be. I usually just go to the family Dr. but he doesn't have any as yet.

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(NT) (NT) I did get one today (where I said "Huzzah!" :-)
by Angeline Booher / October 7, 2004 4:28 AM PDT
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(NT) (NT) Re: Oh I'm glad
by MKay / October 7, 2004 5:34 AM PDT
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Re: My Odyssey: Hunting for a flu shot
by Mark5019 / October 7, 2004 3:48 AM PDT

well i called my clinic yesterday girl said come tommorow 11 am 11:15 was ouy the door with both shots:)
and at no cost to me i mite add:)

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Re: My Odyssey: Hunting for a flu shot
by John Robie / October 7, 2004 3:53 AM PDT

Around here I start checking the newspapers each year in late September and October for when the Flu shots will be given and where. Last year we went to the Alamo Dome, a large sports facility, where there was a band playing for entertainment while getting the Flu shot. Plus all kinds of tables/booths with free samples and medical advice, even giving out those 3 inch thick books on Prescription Drugs.

Normally the small area newspaper will give Doctors offices, Clinic's, and local Health Department times/dates before schedules are published in the large (monopoly ;-)) city newspaper. This year nothing except a blurb about 12 days ago of giving two locations for shots only on 1 day each by the Health Department (open to anyone), no mention of shortages or the UK not delivering. Thought it strange that the locations were in the heavily populated Mexican American areas only (the city is 58% hispanic). Then this past Sunday, two more locations were given for shots only on 29 Oct and yesterday, again in the Mexican American populated areas, this time making note that they were to be given to 65+, people under 65 with health auto immune problems, and babies.

For more SE discussions on this subject:


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Re: My Odyssey: Hunting for a flu shot
by MarciaB / October 7, 2004 8:21 AM PDT

Glad to hear some of you are getting your shots.

I found out this morning that our Public Health office is the ONLY place in the county that has any vaccine. They have 500 vials (as of this AM), and are hoping (praying) to get 500 more tomorrow. They are reserving what they have for elderly, very young, and very high risk.

Granted, we are a small population of folks (3000 here in the county seat, 6000 in the county), but that 500-1000 vials is not going to go very far. From what I hear, at least as of right now, the hospital employees are not on a list to get a shot any time soon. Sad

Will need to be careful and stay healthy this "bug season".


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About the nasal mist ...
by Bill Osler / October 7, 2004 12:46 PM PDT

I'm glad you found one. I hope my patients are so lucky. We will get about 25% of what we ordered.

The nasal mist is not much of an option for the people who really need it. The spray is not recommended for children less than age 5, adults 50 and over, asthmatics, people with immunodeficiency or any of the other high risk groups except for one.

The CDC has said that health care workers can use the nasal vaccine as long as they do not work much with immunosuppressed patients. I suppose that might also apply to caretakers of infants under 6 months or caretakers of elderly patients, but what I've read about that is ambiguous. I'm just barely under the age cut off, so I may choose the nasal vaccine this year. My employer has not yet decided whether to give us the option.

Other than those minor possible exceptions, everybody who really needs a flu shot is excluded from the list of people who should get the nasal vaccine. Bummer.

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OK, Dr. Bill, I bite:
by Paul C / October 7, 2004 1:08 PM PDT

Why is the nasal mist contraindicated for we over 50 year old geezers in training? Is it that it might actually infect us? Is it that it's not effective?

Just curious...

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I'm not completely sure ...
by Bill Osler / October 7, 2004 10:04 PM PDT
In reply to: OK, Dr. Bill, I bite:

I haven't made a systematic attempt to study the question of nasal vaccine in people age 50 and up, but I've done some casual reading about it.

I've read that there was too little testing in people 50 and up to be sure how effective it is, but I've always been skeptical of that reason. We do not use many live virus vaccines in people over 50, but I don't know any reason it would be inherently unsafe. People in that age group generally have adequate immune function.

My best guess (I don't know anything official) is that the CDC prefers use of the injected vaccine in moderate risk groups (like 50-65 y/o) because injected vaccine has known efficacy so the manufacturer did not make any particular effort to look at that age range. It is actually rather weird to read through information at CDC and elsewhere. Most of the information is written in a way that makes it unclear if/when older adults were tested and what the results of the tests were. I know some of the studies included adults up to age 64, maybe older, but there is very little published data regarding results. I did see one report that the vaccine may be less effective in "elderly patients" but the report did not define "elderly", and I would not normally consider people age 50-64 "elderly". I also saw some news items stating that the nasal vaccine was less effective than shots for patients 50-64 y/o but that report included absolutely no data.

Unfortunately, that puts the 50-64 y/o age group in a difficult situation. Most 50-64 y/o patients should not receive the injected vaccine this year because of the shortage, and the official word is that they should not receive the FluMist vaccine either. So what should they do? Personally, unless there is some evidence to the contrary, I'd lean toward giving them the nasal vaccine. Even if the nasal vaccine is less effective than the shot, it would be better than nothing. But then, I don't really have the data to support the opinion.

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Are you sure you really needed it ?
by daflo / October 7, 2004 4:01 PM PDT

Hi Angeline! I went through the same run-a-round and when I finally got my flu shot (they only give them to seniors here, so you know I'm over 65) I was never so sick in my life! Never again! I guess it works for some people but I'm one it doesn't work for and would suggest to everybody out there to talk to your Doctor first to make sure you're compatible with it!

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I wish we could predict those reactions ...
by Bill Osler / October 7, 2004 9:38 PM PDT

There are some people who obviously should not get the shot, like those with allergies to eggs. Most people would say that patients with Guillain-Barre disease should not get it, but nobody really knows the answer to that situation.

Beyond that, it appears that significant reactions are a bit idiosyncratic. We know that some people would have gotten sick whether they took the vaccine or not, and we know that a small number of people get muscle aches and such from the vaccine but we don't know how to predict that.

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