WASHINGTON — QUESTION:
Is there a shortage of high dose flu vaccines in DC, Virginia and Maryland?
There's no shortage, but there was a delay in getting the vaccine approved and manufactured which trickled down to area pharmacies.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Michael Szumera- Sanofi- spokesperson
Maryland Department of Health
Virginia Department of Health
Jenny Rapley- Albertson Companies- Pharmacy Communications
Marilee McInnis- Walmart- Corporate Affairs- Global Communications
Megan Boyd- Walgreens- spokesperson
Laura Camera- Wegmans Food Markets- Public Relations
Chris Savarese- Rite Aid- Spokesperson
Taylor Robertson- Patient First- Community Relations Manager
Tori Partykevich- Giant Food- spokesperson
In the last couple of weeks, we verified there isn’t a national shortage of the high dose flu shot.
Still, six viewers emailed us saying they couldn’t find one at any pharmacy.
"I am NOT able to get the high dose flu vaccine either by primary doctor or five major national pharmacies in my 15-mile radius," one viewer wrote to the Verify team. "The closest distribution is NYC which is 90 miles away. There is an unavailable vaccine for age 65+!!"
We heard from viewers in the District, Bethesda and Northern Virginia.
So we went back to work -- to dig deeper into exactly what’s going on.
We called about everyone in the phone book for this one -- on the national, local and retail level.
We started by calling the company that manufactures the high dose shots, Sanofi Pasteur. They told our researchers there isn’t a shortage, but there is a delay.
The company says the World Health Organization took more time than usual to select the flu strains that would go in this year’s vaccine. That backed up the work at the FDA, who had to confirm that choice before it could go to the manufactures.
In all, we’re told it was pushed back about three to four weeks.
The company maintains there is no shortage of the vaccine and is producing 70 million doses to ship through November.
"There are no shortages of Sanofi Pasteur vaccines," Michael Szumera, a Sanofi spokesperson, said. "We proactively communicated our shipping schedule to customers beginning in late June to assist in the coordination of their immunization campaigns."
We also contacted the local health departments. Maryland and Virginia said there is not a shortage. D.C. said they do consider it a shortage.
"This year, some manufacturers of the influenza vaccine delays of about one month in distributing flu vaccine to providers due to an issue with one of the strains (A/H3N2) within this years vaccine," Stephanie Wheawill, a spokesperson for Virginia's Department of Health, said. "No manufacturers are reporting reduced supplies or shortages with the vaccine. Many providers may receive partial shipments until they receive their full orders. The delay in vaccines should not result in fewer people being vaccinated and we encourage everyone to continue to get their influenza vaccination."
So we called around for two weeks.
Safeway, Walmart, Wegmans, Patient First and Giant originally said that because of the delay in manufacturing the high dose vaccine were in limited supply. But as of November 4, most have re-stocked, and more shipments are coming in.
Calling a pharmacy ahead is your best course of action.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you should speak with your doctor to discuss the best course of action, if a high dose flu shot isn’t available near you.
So we can Verify, there's no national or local shortage of the vaccine, but because of the delay in picking, approving and manufacturing the high dose flu vaccine, some pharmacies in the DMV had a limited supply.