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High demand for flu shot could lead to supply shortages

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Get your flu shot now. That’s the message leaders from the Florida Department of Health are sending out to Floridians. However, if you’re planning to get the higher dose vaccine, you may have more trouble finding it.

This year, more Americans than ever are expected to get a flu shot. Demand for the flu vaccine is up 15%, according to a recent Reuters study, as more people worry about the flu impacting their immunity, and making them more susceptible to COVID-19.

“This year you can see that people are concerned. They want to protect themselves,” Trish Huynh, the pharmacy manager at Alexander Pharmacy on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park explained.

Huynh is working to secure as many doses as she can.

“The regular flu shot is available because we reserve them in advance,” she explained. “However the high dose ones are straggling in. We keep an eye out at the warehouse and if we see one, we snatch it.”

Nationwide, doctors and hospitals say the higher dose vaccine, which is recommended for people above age 65, is in shorter supply. Many Tampa Bay pharmacies, hospitals and health departments tell ABC Action News that they’re stocked now, but the higher dose could run out as more people start getting flu shots.

Nishant Anand, the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at BayCare Health Systems, says now is the time to start thinking about getting a flu vaccine.

“Especially if you have chronic conditions, you don’t want to take any chances with your health,” he added.

The vaccine could be crucial to ensuring hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with COVID-19 and flu outbreaks at the same time. Anand says since COVID-19 symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, he worries that more people will need to quarantine if someone goes to work or school with the flu, but it is confused for COVID-19.

“In flu season’s peak of January and February, hospitals are pretty full and then you add another stressor on top of that like COVID and you can have some really severe challenges of hospital resources. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, I think it’s important to do it for those you come in contact with and the greater community at large,” Anand added.

If you aren’t able to find the higher dose, doctors recommend getting a regular flu shot instead.

Getting enough sleep, exercise, reducing stress and eating well can also help boost your immunity.

Jason West, a doctor at the West Clinic is recommending that to his patients.

“Right now is the opportunity for people to clean up their lives and get their immune system healthy,” he said.

The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October. It takes about 2 weeks from the time you get the shot for the vaccine to offer protection.

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