Flu-shot shortage is easing


Herald Writer

The flu shot shortage is finally starting to ease in Snohomish County, with the vaccine more available now than a few weeks ago.

Several major health care organizations, including The Everett Clinic and Group Health, are providing it to all patients.

"It was so rocky there for a while, it was like flying in an airplane for the first time in your life — white-knuckled," Bonnie Neff, who coordinates the flu-shot effort for The Everett Clinic, said of this year’s vaccine production problems.

"Your goal is always to take care of the community," she added. "We had one hand tied behind our back this year."

The Snohomish Health District is still restricting its shots to people in the high-risk group, which includes patients with diabetes and heart and immune system problems. It also includes those over age 65 or whose health problems make them vulnerable to serious illness if they get the flu.

Stevens Hospital in Edmonds is providing the partial shipment of vaccine it has received to physicians in its network. But there are still no dates for public flu-shot clinics.

An arriving shipment of 15,000 doses last week allowed Group Health to start giving shots to its patients this week.

About 1,060 people turned out for shots at the Everett Medical Center on Monday and Tuesday, spokeswoman Terri Campbell said.

This was far less than the response to the first round of clinics in mid-November, when 1,300 Group Health members were immunized in one day at the Everett facility, thought to be the largest single-day turnout ever.

The response was spurred by a nationwide problem with the vaccine’s production, which led to shipments arriving later than usual.

Health organizations typically start providing the shots in early October.

Although no more flu-shot clinics are scheduled at the Everett Medical Center, Group Health members can still get their free shots by showing up at its injection room, which is open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday though Friday.

The shots will be offered at the Lynnwood Group Health office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 12, Campbell said. In Monroe, the shots are available Wednesday Wfrom 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Group Health’s flu hotline at 800-292-0085.

The Everett Clinic has about 1,000 doses remaining, which is expected to meet demands, Neff said. Any of their patients should call their primary care doctor or go to one of the walk-in clinics, she said. Shots are $10.

With less than half of its 6,500-dose order on hand, the Snohomish Health District is still saving its supply for adults in the high-risk groups.

"We’re just doing things week by week right now," said Kelly Barrows, vaccine coordinator.

The countywide public health agency will announce when the shot is available to the public, she added. Call 425-339-5200 for updates.

Hoped-for flu vaccine has arrived at the Providence Occupational Medicine Center in Everett.

In fact, 200 shots were provided to the crew filming for the television show "The Fugitive," clinic manager Eleanor Turner said.

Its original order of 10,000 doses was cut by 15 percent by the manufacturer, she said. The center’s final vaccine shipment arrived last week. Call 425-258-7660 for information. The shots are $10.

"I told everybody … to come on in," Turner said of walk-in traffic. "We should be done by Christmas."

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