The State of Connecticut yesterday decided to make more flu shots available to children aged 5-19 years. We have placed an order and expect to have additional supply next week. The office is taking names from anyone who still wants one. Please call ASAP.

People have been asking why it is that we can run out of flu shots when the local pharmacies seem to have plenty.  It’s a good question, but a complicated one.  For anyone who is interested, I will try to explain the difficulties:

The first thing to realize is that there are many different flu shots, each with different age and insurance restrictions.  Most local walk-ins will not give shots to children because their providers and/or their vaccines are not approved for children.  Some of ours are approved for use under 3, others for over 3.  Some can be used over 2 and some can be used over 4.  The state started supplying vaccine for all children under 5 as of January, and mandating that we use only state supply for this group, but we were prohibited from using state vaccine for anyone over 5 years until yesterday. Unless they had Medicaid.  But Medicaid purchased vaccines cannot be used on patients with commercial insurance.

Sadly, the challenges do not end there.  Orders for flu vaccine are placed in February or March of the previous year, which is to say you have to guess how much to order 6-12 months in advance.  And demand varies widely each year.  Last year we were able to give out flu shots into the early spring because demand was low.  This year, with a very similar order, we ran through our supply in three months because demand had suddenly increased.  Remember that these are products with a very limited shelf life.  You can’t save them for next season if they don’t get used.

In an ideal world, we would just resupply as needed, but the manufacturers had distributed all available vaccine by November this year.  Many large providers, like the State and retail clinics, still had large stockpiles so in that sense there was no shortage, but that does not mean that a small provider like a doctor’s office can get there hands on it.  Which is why the State releasing pediatric vaccine for general use is such a big deal.

So, for the moment at least, we should be able to give out more vaccine to anyone who wants one.  But call soon.  There’s no way of knowing when the State supply will run out.