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Flu shots in plentiful supply during the coronavirus pandemic

Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 1:39 PM EST
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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - As COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Michigan, the flu is an added concern.

Some have questioned whether there’s a flu vaccine shortage. There’s no shortage, but the demand is higher than ever.

Health officials have warned getting the flu shot this season is important more than it has been before because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That’s really what the vaccination does. It doesn’t always prevent influenza but it prevents severe illness from influenza. It keeps people from being hospitalized," said nurse Terri Adams, who is the section manager for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Immunizations.

Fewer people hospitalized for influenza means more hospital beds are available for COVID-19 patients. Michigan health officials know far less about COVID-19 compared to the flu, so the state is campaigning to provide 1 million more doses of the flu vaccine this season.

Compared to last year they’re already up 40% in vaccinations.

“Providers are up in numbers, pharmacies are up in numbers," Adams said. "People are demanding more flu shots.”

CVS Health said they’ve already surpassed the number of flu shots given last season and is on pace to provide 18 million flu shots. That’s twice as many compared to last season. But they do encourage people to make appointments before coming in.

Some people have reportedly been told by their providers that there’s no vaccine in stock -- at least right now. According to state health officials, the largest supplier of the flu vaccine is having some issues amid the high demand.

“There’s one manufacturer, Sanofi, that has had a delay in their shipment. So they’re having a little trouble of getting their supply out there but there’s no shortage and they have manufactured more than ever," Adams said.

The Genesee Health Plan is not seeing a shortage of flu vaccine doses. The organization vaccinated 50 people Friday in a mini drive-thru clinic and about 220 people a month ago with plans to hold several more events through December.

“A lot of large box stores, pharmacies did receive vaccines but some of the smaller physicians' offices and clinics did not get a large stock of vaccines initially," said E. Yvonne Lewis, the director of outreach Genesee Health Plan.

Health officials say now is the ideal time to get vaccinated.

“The vaccine is designed to get us through the flu season, which gets us into March and April, so we’re encouraging people to get the vaccine now because it takes a couple of weeks for the body to really build up immunity," Lewis said.

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