CDC: ‘Spot shortages’ of flu vaccine reported as disease spreads to 47 states

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

It's not too late to get vaccinated against this season's particularly nasty flu outbreak, but you may have some trouble finding a flu shot.

On a call Friday to update reporters on the status of the outbreak, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said that a high demand for the flu vaccine has created some "spot shortages" of the flu shot as people flood pharmacies and doctors' offices to get immunized. There have also been reports of shortages of the pediatric formulation of Tamiflu, which is used to treat children who have come down with the bug.

Flu season started more than a month early this year and is now widespread in 47 states, with 24 of those states and New York City reporting very high levels of disease. In some areas, the flu is mixing with a nasty stomach bug and an unusual outbreak of whooping cough. At least one hospital in Pennsylvania has erected a special flu tent to treat the high number of patients flooding their offices, and the city of Boston has declared a state of emergency because of the high number of cases.

On Thursday in flu-ridden New York City, one Duane Reade pharmacy in Times Square was out of vaccines altogether, turning away several people who asked for the shot. A pharmacist at a nearby Walgreens said the store ran out of vaccines a week earlier, but purchased more from a store in Queens and was vaccinating dozens of people each day.

Flu vaccine makers told CNN they have plenty of inventory of both the nasal spray and flu shot. The CDC, however, says most of the 135 million vaccine doses manufactured this year have already been administered.

Those who were vaccinated with this season's flu shot were about 62 percent less likely to have to go to the doctor's office for flu symptoms, the CDC says. It's not too late to get inoculated, though it takes about two weeks for the effects to fully set in.

The only part of the country not felled by the virus so far is the far West, but the flu may be on its way there. "Generally we do see flu essentially roll across the country," Frieden said.

CDC scientists are also seeing signs that the tide may be turning, at least in some Southern and Southeastern states where flu cases appear to be dropping off.