Some New York City pharmacies and clinics are reporting flu vaccine shortages caused by increased demand following reports of widespread outbreaks.
The city's Health Department said Monday the shortages are in individual locations and don't reflect a larger supply problem. A representative for Walgreen Co., which also owns the regional Duane Reade chain, said some locations are running low, but the company is working to distribute vaccines to those stores.
"Stores are receiving vaccine as we speak,'' Walgreen spokesman Jim Cohn said.
Likewise, there are sporadic shortages at CVS stores in New York, according to spokesman Mike DeAngelis. "We are resupplying affected stores as quickly as possible,'' he said in an email.
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Nearly 20,000 cases of influenza have been reported in New York state this season. That's more than four times the 4,400 positive laboratory tests reported all of last season.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency Saturday for the state because of the severity of the season. He also issued an executive order suspending for a month the state law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizations only to individuals 18 years of age or older. Pharmacists are now allowed to administer flu vaccinations to patients between 6 months and 18 years.
Walgreen and Duane Reade stores were offering flu shots for children 7 and older as of Monday, Cohn said. CVS is still working out some details to allow its pharmacists to vaccinate minors, DeAngelis said.
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City Health and Hospitals Corp. facilities, including its clinics, have no vaccine shortages.
Some independent pharmacies are also seeing supplies run short. Craig M. Burridge, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, said independent stores are contacting their wholesalers to get more shipments. "We heard over the weekend that some wholesalers still had vaccine available,'' he said.
The city is maintaining an online map to help residents find flu vaccines. A Health Department spokeswoman said the map is updated as information comes in.
Every county in the state has significant incidence of the flu. It reflects the worst nationwide outbreak in four years. The federal Centers for Disease Control said 47 states are reporting widespread outbreaks, and the flu season is earlier and busier than in recent years.
Despite the early start, health officials say it's not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine is considered a good -- though not perfect -- protection against getting really sick from the flu.
The CDC suggested that flu season will peak early. It usually peaks in midwinter and lasts through March.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.
Most people with flu have a mild illness. But people with severe symptoms need to see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.
The flu's early arrival coincided with spikes in flu-like illnesses caused by other bugs, including a new norovirus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, or what is commonly known as "stomach flu.'' Those illnesses likely are part of the heavy traffic in hospital and clinic waiting rooms, CDC officials said.