Vaccine shortage relaxes but shots still hurt

Island County’s senior population can relax. Even though flu season peaks after Christmas, most of the people classified as at-risk for catching a bad case of the disease have already been vaccinated.

The county wrapped up the last of its make-up flu shot clinics Thursday after most of the population had received a dose of the once-scarce vaccine.

“I think we can relax now about a shortage in Island County,” Communicable Disease Nurse Shannon McDonnell said.

The county has yet to see a case of actual influenza infection, she said. The county’s schools also have not seen a spike in absence rates. Surrounding counties such as King, Snohomish and Skagit have reported cases.

The real test locally will be the next month, McDonnell said. “If we’re going to have a flu season, it’ll happen then.”

The county has distributed approximately half of the 1,000-dose supply it recently received from AventisPasteur. The county found itself short on doses after the world’s largest supplier of flu vaccine, Chiron, was unable to ship any of its product into the United States due to quality issues.

The county has since received a couple of follow up shipments of the supply that was available through AventisPasteur.

At the county’s clinic in Oak Harbor Wednesday, 71-year-old Jerry Ackley said he was relieved to be receiving a flu shot. He said he has been trying for a few weeks to get a vaccine, but everywhere he went, they had run out.

“Everything you read or here, they say that if you’re a guy that’s as old as I am, you need to get a shot,” Ackley said.

At Island Drug, the hysteria is waning as well. Pharmacist Sarah Reinstra said she has been calling people from her 1,800-person waiting list to distribute the 400 doses Island Drug received last week.

“Overall, on a page of 20 names, only three still need a shot,” she said. She still has 300 people to call and only 150 doses left, which will be gone by next week, she said.

The Island County Health Department lowered its age threshold to 50 last week based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

Reinstra said Island Drug is following those recommendations, but is advising people that if they are 50 and in great health to let others get a shot first.

“Fifty is probably as low as it’s going to go,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell said she does not anticipate the criteria for obtaining a vaccine to relax this flu season. The county will be able to get more doses for the at-risk population if a need exists, she said.

The county will resume regularly scheduled immunization clinics next week, starting Monday in Coupeville. Vaccines will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. at 410 N. Main and Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m at the Oak Harbor Family Resource Center.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at

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