Flu vaccine still a hot and rare commodity in Hudson Valley
Hudson Valley residents seeking last-minute protection against the flu are finding the vaccine is in short supply, according to health officials and Newsday Westchester's spot checks.
"It's totally unavailable to us," said Bill Stroud, a pharmacist at the Greenleaf Pharmacy in Hastings-on-Hudson. "All of my wholesalers are out of stock."
Stroud said the pharmacy is getting "at least" 20-30 phone inquiries each day for the vaccine, including local doctors who have run out.
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"Most independent pharmacies are in the same position as we are," he said.
Barbara Ilardi, public information officer for the Putnam County Department of Health, acknowledged the shortage.
"Even in Putnam, there seems to be spotty coverage," she said. "At the Health Department, we have a limited supply."
Last week, 512 people flocked to the county's flu vaccination clinic, but Ilardi said the next clinic will be by appointment only.
"We can't open to first come, first served," she said, and the county may impose age restrictions on vaccine recipients.
Calls to two pediatricians' offices in White Plains found one had adequate supplies but the other had run out.
To alleviate the shortages, the Westchester County Health Department is trying to match pharmacists and doctors seeking the serum with suppliers, said Caren Halbfinger, the agency's spokeswoman.
"The good news is that while the number of cases is up, the number of hospitalizations is down," Halbfinger said of the situation in Westchester County . "We have 24 people who were hospitalized. That's a low number that suggests the cases are mild."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a flu emergency Saturday, allowing pharmacists to vaccinate children under age 18 for a 30-day period that began Sunday.
The state Department of Health is urging everyone age 6 months or older to get a vaccination. Though the flu season usually peaks in February, it continues through May, the agency said.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who have never received the flu vaccine need to get two doses of vaccine spaced at least four weeks apart.
The state warns that pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, those 65 years and older and children younger than 5 are at greatest risk of suffering serious complications from the flu.
For the week that ended Jan. 5, 1,150 people were admitted to state hospitals with the flu, a 55 percent increase over the prior week, the state Health Department reported.
The flu has been implicated in the death of two New York children this flu season, according to the Health Department.
New York is one of 24 states reporting many influenza-like illnesses, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.