Some county health department are reporting they’re already out of flu vaccine. Influenza shots have always been considered a good precaution this time of year, even if you’re not in one of the high-risk groups like young children, elderly and chronically ill people. Mike Speight with the Iowa Medical Foundation says this is not the first time there’s been a concern over adequate supply. There were priority lists, and not everybody who wanted a flu shot could get one, and this year after the FDA wouldn’t let some of the vaccine into the country because of contamination concerns, “we went from having more than enough to only having about 50-percent of what we needed.” Now the CDC and local health departments are looking closely at the lists of who should have priority for the few shots remaining, and Speight says if you or a child are in the high-risk group, you have some options. The first thing to do is visit your own doctor, your primary-care physician or whoever you’re seeing regularly for health care. If you feel it’s urgent and your doctor doesn’t have the vaccine, Speight says you can contact your county health department for a recommendation. Healthcare providers and others who give flu shots order vaccine in different ways, some through a local pharmacy, some through the county health department, and it’s distributed through different channels. Even though a county health department, for example, may have exhausted their supplies, there could be some pharmacy or private doctor who still has vaccine, and on the other hand he says even if your own doctor’s out, some other county health department may still have a supply. Patients scheduled for a vaccination clinic in Minnesota arrived this week and were given a can of chicken soup and a box of tissues, all the administrators could do since the vaccine shortage cropped up. Speight says other alternatives might be a shot for different illnesses. The primary other option is pneumonia vaccination, since pneumonia’s even more serious than influenza and there’s a vaccine for pneomococcal pneumonia, the most common kind and the one spread from person to person. Best of all, he says unlike flu shots which you need every year, your pneumonia vaccination is good for life. Speight says the pneumonia shot is recommended for patients of medicare age, for example, and those high-risk groups. Actually if you got a pneumonia shot when you were 20 and it was 30 years ago, you might need a booster, but if you get one after age fifty or so you won’t need another the rest of your life. Anybody concerned about their health and risk factors should visit with their doctor about their concerns, and ask about pneumonia or other vaccines.
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