COLUMBIA — Local pharmacists dealt with an increase in phone calls, walk-ins and queries about the flu vaccine in response to outbreaks of influenza in other states.
D&H Drugstore received about 50 calls on Friday about vaccine availability and immunized 20 people on one 90-minute stretch, pharmacist Erica Hopkins-Wadlow said.
D&H ordered an additional 20 to 30 vaccines for each of its two Columbia locations both Friday and Monday and were vaccinating on a first-come, first-serve basis with no appointment needed, Hopkins-Wadlow said.
Bill Morrissey, one of the owners of Kilgore's Medical Pharmacy, said pharmacists like himself are becoming more conservative in ordering vaccines this deep in the flu season to avoid being left with unusable stock that goes to waste and could have been used elsewhere.
"So long as there is a demand for vaccines, our pharmacy will order more," Morrissey said.
Linda Cooperstock, public health planner for the Public Health and Human Services Department said providers such as Walmart and Hy-Vee tend to order a finite amount of vaccine. "When they run out, they are out and generally do not intend to get more," she said.
A pharmacy associate at Walmart on West Broadway on Monday said their store was out of vaccines; a representative at the Hy-Vee on Conley Road said there was a waiting list and that more vaccines should be available Friday.
So far, Boone County has experienced a normal flu season compared to other parts of the U.S.
A total of 790 cases of influenza have been reported in Boone County since September 2012, which is typical for this time of year, according to the most recent figures available to Cooperstock. How that number will change with the influx of students returning to MU and other colleges remains to be seen, she said.
For the vaccine to be effective, residents should be immunized before symptoms occur. The vaccine takes a minimum of two weeks to be effective.
"You have people walking in for the vaccine, thinking that once they get it they are immediately covered. People need to understand that it takes a few weeks for that immunity to rev up to full force," Morrissey said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone get the influenza vaccine and emphasizes the importance of vaccinating children.
For those 18 years and under, the local Health Department is providing the vaccine and flu-mist free of charge. Vaccines are also available for adults, and prices vary depending on the type of insurance and where they go to be vaccinated.