No flu vaccine causes a Tulsa clinic to turn away dozens of people

Friday, October 22nd 2004, 10:19 am
By: News On 6

A recent newspaper ad offering flu shots sent dozens of people to a Tulsa clinic, only to be turned away.

Officials at Pic Med say the shots they were expecting simply didn't arrive this week. The News on Six's Heather Lewin has the latest on what those wanting a flu shot need to know.

They waited in line, some for more than three hours Thursday, hoping for the hard to come by flu vaccine. Ultimately they were turned away, no vaccine was available. Several returned the Friday morning, only to be greeted with a sign.

Jerry Scholz: "They didn't promise it, but I was hopeful." Scholz says he's not concerned for himself, but his son is a diabetic and they've had no luck finding him a shot. "Zero. Even the diabetic physician who cares for my son. That clinic didn't receive any vaccine."

Betty Ward drove all the way from Cleveland and even brought a prescription but was turned away. "It's fearful. I'm reasonably healthy, but because of my age and the fact that I take care of children, my grandchildren, I think I need one."

Now the shipment isn't expected until next week, officials here say they're pretty much at the mercy of the distributor, who's told them not only is the vaccine coming late, it's only about a third this number of vials promised.

Pic Med is continuing to advertise shots, for $25 a piece, but that doesn't mean just anyone can get one. Clara Coualston with Pic Med: "Yes, someone perfectly healthy like myself can get the flu, but we're not going to die from it."

Coualston says the term 'high risk' means more this year than ever. To qualify for a shot, you must be over 60, between 6 months and 3 years old, or have a medical complication like pregnancy, asthma, emphysema or diabetes. People with those medical conditions still need a doctors' prescription. "It's our mission here to help those who can't be helped by any other means."

Pic Med workers say about 1,200 shots should be available Tuesday, those who were given slips Thursday will be served first, then other high risk only people. The business, which they say doesn't usually serve as a public clinic, cannot accept Medicare.

A lot of people are frustrated about the number of shots at Pic Med, but many places for instance St. John Hospitals aren't going to have any vaccine.

Officials there say attempts at price gouging by a distributor kept them from ordering replacement shots.