Need a shot? You may have to wait
WILLMAR -- Local demand for the seasonal influenza vaccine has been so high that Affiliated Community Medical Centers has stopped scheduling appointments for people to come in and get their flu shots.
At many places around Minnesota, people might have to wait a little longer this fall to receive the seasonal flu vaccine. But health officials said Wednesday that the delay is temporary and that there should be enough vaccine for everyone who needs it or wants it.
"We're feeling that in the end, we'll be able to provide for everybody," said Jo DeBruycker, manager of the Health Learning Center at ACMC.
ACMC officials announced Wednesday that they're suspending flu shot appointments until another shipment of vaccine arrives. When that happens, some time in late October to early November, the regional multi-specialty clinic will resume scheduling for flu shot appointments.
"We'll be picking right back up and completing the people who are still waiting," DeBruycker said. "It won't be that much of a wait. We know there's more coming so we don't want people to worry."
ACMC still has some vaccine left but is using it for patients considered at high risk of severe illness or complications from influenza, she said.
"If you're high-risk and you're in for an appointment, you'll get the vaccine," she said.
So far, ACMC has given more than 18,000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccine at its 11 medical clinics.
When staff conducted an inventory check earlier this week, they realized they'd gone through more vaccine than anyone anticipated, DeBruycker said.
"We've had an enormous response this year," she said. "This has been unprecedented."
Several medical providers around the state have already used up their initial supply of seasonal flu vaccine, while others are still waiting to get their first shipment, Minnesota Department of Health officials said Wednesday.
"So many Minnesotans have been responding to our calls to get vaccinated early for seasonal influenza this year that the supply in the pipeline hasn't been able to keep up with the demand," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of the infectious disease, epidemiology and control division for the state Health Department.
More vaccine is on the way, "so keep checking back with your provider to find out when they will have it," she said.
Health officials have been pushing the seasonal flu vaccine especially hard this year because of the novel H1N1 influenza virus, also known as swine flu, that has been circulating since spring.
Getting a seasonal flu shot is seen as an important first defense against the influenza that normally hits hardest during the winter months. A separate vaccine has been developed for the novel H1N1 strain; it's expected to become available in Minnesota in mid-October.
Health officials say it's safe for people to receive both the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines at the same time.
It's actually normal for the seasonal flu vaccine to be given later in the fall, DeBruycker said. But manufacturers have made it available earlier this year so the health care system can focus in October on vaccinating against novel H1N1.
For those who don't want to wait a few more weeks to receive their shot for seasonal flu, the pharmacies at Cub Foods and Walgreen's are both offering the vaccine.
Randy Krogmann, manager of Walgreen's, said the store began administering flu shots at the end of August and will continue at least through the end of September.
"We've been getting quite a few people coming in," he said.
Hours for the flu shot clinic at Walgreen's are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
At Cub Foods, flu shot clinics started last week. Hours this week are 2 to 8 p.m. today through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Cub also will offer flu shots from 2 to 8 p.m. Oct. 7, 8 and 9, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 10.