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November 18th, 2009
03:33 PM ET

Are H1N1 fears prompting a run on seasonal flu vaccine?

By Saundra Young
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Every year I get a seasonal flu shot. CNN sponsors flu clinics for employees, so luckily I never have to go "in search of.” My 12-year-old daughter always gets one too.

So the first week in October, I called her pediatrician to schedule a seasonal flu shot. I thought I was ahead of the game. To my surprise, I was told they were out of both the shot and FluMist, but that they were expecting a new shipment mid-October. Since then I have called her office once a week. Nothing. Finally last week they told me they did not know when they would get another batch, and suggested I check with local clinics and other providers such as pharmacies and supermarkets.

I visited a clinic, called numerous supermarkets and pharmacies. Everyone was out, and none knew whether, or when, another shipment would arrive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of last week, 94 million doses of seasonal flu have already been distributed. Total production for this season is 114 million doses.

So where did all that seasonal flu vaccine go? CDC Spokesman Llelwyn Grant says the number of people getting seasonal flu vaccine this year is higher than has been seen in previous flu seasons. He attributes the numbers to all the attention given to H1N1. "People are more vigilant in getting vaccinated based on H1N1 activities. They are proactively getting ahead of seasonal flu before it kicks in. Awareness has been higher. That's why seasonal flu vaccine is moving faster than in previous years."

Grant says health officials have not seen much seasonal flu yet. A few pockets maybe, but the majority of cases are still H1N1. He says seasonal flu season generally really starts to percolate around November or December.

Unlike with H1N1, the federal and state governments are not involved in the actual purchasing of seasonal flu vaccine. Whoever orders that vaccine is doing so directly from the manufacturer. So while it may seem like a shortage, the amount of vaccine produced this year is about the same as the last few years. Still, Grant says he understands the frustration. "We are encouraging folks to continue looking. There is more to be distributed. The good news is we have yet to see any seasonal activity really manifesting itself here in the United States. That is the one good piece of news."

So, I find myself waiting for the last 20 million doses to be distributed. Coming soon, I hope, to a clinic near me. Keeping my fingers crossed that I find one with vaccine before the seasonal flu finds my daughter.

I even popped on the American Lung Association's flu clinic locator Web page. Both the CDC and Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene pushed me to their "find a flu shot site." It didn't help. Most of the clinics that did surface were for H1N1 shots only. The eight that were listed as having seasonal flu vaccine were all in Virginia. Bold type instructed me to "please call ahead to confirm availability."

Is anyone else having this much trouble finding a seasonal flu shot?

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