Health clinics, pharmacies see early demand for flu vaccine

SPOKANE, Wash. — We’re still months away from getting the coronavirus vaccine, but one virus people can help avoid is the flu. More people are getting the flu vaccine this season compared to years past.

Kaiser Permanente says more people are walking into its facilities to get their flu shot this year.

Throughout the state, John Dunn, the director of preventative care, says Kaiser gave about 15,000 more vaccines this year so far compared to the same time frame last year.

“We saw bigger numbers in September and October and in the early part of November than we usually do,” Dunn said.

The same could be said for the pharmacies in Albertsons and Safeway.

David Green, the director of pharmacy operations for the Seattle division of Albertsons, says they saw October numbers in September. October is generally the more busy time for flu shots.

In October, Green says some stores had more than 100 people walk in to get a flu shot.

“That was pretty common,” he said.

The demand for flu vaccines are high, and there is enough of them out there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccine manufacturers projected they would give as many as 194 to 198 million doses of the flu shot this season. Last year, it was 175 million doses, which was a record.

Both Green and Dunn say their companies purchased extra vaccines earlier this year. They normally put orders in February and March.

“I think we were able to purchase about 10 to 20 percent more than we initially thought we would purchase, and we have that in our stores now,” Green said.

While those stores are seeing an influx¬† of people getting flu shots, CHAS Health isn’t seeing the same increase.

Dr. Monica Blykowski-May, the chief medical director for CHAS, says they are still doing many virtual appointments.

“In the past we’ve given a lot more influenza vaccines when patients come in to the clinic for regular visits, so we’re just not seeing that same in-person volume,” she said.

Blykowski-May says it’s tried to be creative in hosting drive-thru influenza vaccine events, but it’s still tricky and tough to get everyone their flu shots.

While many places do still have regular flu vaccines, some have run out of the high dose option, which is normally given to older people.

Even if people try to go get the high dose option and it’s not available, Green encourages people to still get the regular dose vaccine.

“That doesn’t mean that regular dose vaccine is ineffective. regular dose vaccines is still quite effective even for older adults,” Dunn said.

Safeway, Albertsons and Kaiser saw an increase of people coming in earlier in the season to get flu shots, but it’s getting slower. Dunn and Green say that’s normal for this time of the season.

They say it isn’t too late to get one to help protect loved ones, especially as we all continue to battle the pandemic.

“It’s like everything we’re doing with COVID. You’re just taking precautions and you’re also avoiding potential additional strain on the health care system,” Green said.

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