While the Gila County Health Department says it has plenty of vaccine, many people in the Rim Country are finding it hard to get a flu shot.
Daryl Oft, owner of Diversified Solutions, a clinic that offers vaccinations to the public, said the current situation is very frustrating for everyone.
"Last Friday, we thought we had plenty of vaccinations for all of our clinics, but by the end of this week, we've run out. There's a vaccination shortage now, but the situation changes from one day to the next," said Oft.
"We ordered 7,000 vaccines and we were told Wednesday by our supplier that we'll only get about 43 percent of our total order for this year, or around 3,200 vaccines." he said.
"Next week, we have close to 350 appointments scheduled in Payson and Pine, and we should be able to have enough vaccines for all of those appointments. But we're telling all of those people to call after noon on Nov. 16 to confirm vaccine availability. If the vaccines are in, they need to keep their scheduled appointment. If not, we'll have to put off their appointments until the following week," he said.
Oft said his suppliers are blaming the U.S. government for the shortage. They insist there is now a shortage, in part because the U.S. government has purchased a large percentage of the available vaccine on the market for high-risk patients.
"Until I start seeing more vaccines coming in, we won't schedule any more appointments," he said. To confirm your appointment, call Diversified Solutions at (928) 472-3388. By Nov. 22 the clinic will be scheduling additional appointments based on vaccine availability.
Banner Health Center officials said doctors there have used all the vaccines they have ordered. At this time, patients are being referred to Safeway on Highway 260 for vaccines.
"We are lucky, we have pharmacists here who are able to give the shots, and there aren't any lines to wait in," Scott Grassel, pharmacy manager with Safeway, said.
"We have about 400 vaccines now, and are getting a shipment of about 200 more Friday."
"After a recent Arizona Republic article talking about a delay in the vaccinations across the state, we were overwhelmed for a few days, but now we're in good shape. I think, because of the size of Safeway, our company got dibs on a large number of vaccines," Grassel said.
Grassel said he expects those 600 or so vaccinations to last him a few weeks, depending upon the requests.
In order to get a vaccine through Safeway, it's necessary for your doctor to send a request to the pharmacy at the Payson Safeway. Then, you can call the store and make an appointment.
Some visitors at last weekend's Community Health and Care Fair said they were unable to get their flu shots.
"Only 30 people were turned away ... at the fair," said Judy Baker, of the Mogollon Health Alliance, one of the program's sponsors. Baker said the problem was the result of several unfortunate events: the fair was to have received juvenile shots, but they received only adult vaccine. Only one person was giving the shots, while a local volunteer was recruited to do the necessary paperwork, and the person giving the shots had a flat tire en route to town.
Matt Bollinger, an epidemiologist with the Gila County Health Department, said there is plenty of vaccine available. He said the problem has been that the units have trickled in.
Starting Nov. 21, several clinics will be offered by the health department.
Bollinger said the vaccination is free to those on some Medicare plans, and there will be a $30 charge for other adults. He said, there is no charge for children 18 and under.
"Delays in the distribution of some of the county's flu vaccine may mean some people will have to wait until late November or early December to get their influenza vaccination," stated a recent news release from the Gila County Health Department. "Some doctors have not received vaccine shipments, and Chiron Corporation said recently that it will not produce as many doses as it initially expected."
According to the county's release, "There are reports of some providers using up all their supplies of influenza vaccine, but it's not clear whether consumer demand is unusually high this year. October and November are traditionally the months when most people seek and receive an influenza vaccination. Providers that have vaccine one week may not have it until the next, while providers who don't currently have much vaccine may have more in the coming weeks and on into December.
"It's important to remember that getting an influenza vaccination in December is beneficial, and that people unable to get an influenza vaccination today may want to try to schedule a vaccination appointment with their doctor or health-care provider for later this month or in December. The influenza disease season usually doesn't peak in the United States until January or later," according to the health department release.
Medical professionals say don't be alarmed by the current situation -- that more supplies could come in at any time. They say the vaccine usually takes about two weeks to work.
"Don't give up just because it seems like you can't get a vaccine now. I know there are a lot of people planning to give vaccines later. The vaccination will be effective even if you wait until January to receive it," said Oft.
Flu shot clinics
- Nov. 21, in Young at the Young Public School, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
- Nov. 22, at the Payson Elks Lodge, 1206 N. Beeline from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
- Nov. 23, in Tonto Basin at the school gym, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.;
- Nov. 23, in Roosevelt at the community center, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.