A shortage that has turned into a surplus

Wednesday, January 19th 2005, 5:05 pm
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma State Health Department now says anyone can get a flu shot for free.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says it's because health departments still have flu shots left. If they're not handed out soon - they would be wasted and someone wouldn't have the protection a flu shot provides.

There are still a few people considered high risk, who haven't had a flu shot, but the Tulsa County Health Department is making inroads on the last few. Babies were eligible all along, but now everyone is.

Earla Anderson RN with the Tulsa County Health Department: “We have at no point, run out of vaccine; we've always had enough vaccine for people who qualified to get it when they came in.”

Last fall, the government forecast a severe shortage - because of problems at one of the factories that makes the vaccine. It sparked a panic among the elderly, who lined up by the thousands to get what they thought were the last few doses. That was long before anyone had the flu. Within a few weeks - Tulsa County's Health Department started drive thru vaccinations to handle the demand. Now that shortage has turned into a surplus.

Tulsa County has 1,200 doses left. That's after vaccinating 72% of people 65 and over. Of those at high risk, 90% of them got a flu shot this year. As it turns out, the supply met the demand, and for the first time ever, those at high risk were vaccinated first. For everyone else, it's not too late for the shot to work. “The flu is here, and they could have already been exposed, and could down with it, it takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to get up where it needs to be protecting well.”

So far, there's no evidence that what looked like a shortage has increased the outbreak of flu. There are only a few cases reported so far in Oklahoma, which is typical for this time of year.

As the supply finally dwindles - and this time it really will run out - the health department is offering a hotline to let people know which of their locations will have vaccine available, and their hours. The telephone number is 595-4500.