December 5, 2003
The Mecklenburg County Health Department still has about 1,500 doses of flu vaccine remaining. This limited supply may be the last for this season now that the two largest manufacturers of flu vaccine are reporting they have exhausted their supply.
Recent attention to the benefits of the flu vaccine and forecasts of a more severe flu season have driven demand for the vaccinations. Traffic in the Health Department's immunization clinics has more than tripled in the last several days.
Immunization Supervisor Beverly Rochester says that the Health Department is exploring options with other North Carolina counties that may be trying to unload any overstock flu vaccine, and working through the state and the manufacturers to locate any remaining vaccine.
The most recent statewide report on diagnosis of flu and flu-like illnesses indicates that North Carolina has already experienced the same level of flu activity that it did during the peak of last year's flu season.
"The difference is that we're seeing these numbers much earlier than we did last year," says Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director for the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Keener says that data collected over the next several weeks may help determine how quickly this flu season is ramping up.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over nearly 30 years, peaks of flu activity have occurred most often in February. In some years, peak flu activity occurs as early as December.
State epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Engel is reporting to the CDC that diagnosis of flu and flu-like illness in North Carolina is widespread-the highest level of activity.
The flu shot is $20, the pneumonia shot is $25. There is no charge for either vaccination for Medicaid or Medicare "B" coverage patients. Medicaid and Medicare patients will need to bring their insurance cards with them.
For recorded information in about clinic operating hours and costs for the vaccinations, call the Mecklenburg County Health Department's Flu Clinic Information Hotline at 704-336-4667.
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