Local News

Seasonal flu shots being offered earlier than usual

Posted September 3, 2009 1:50 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2009 5:07 p.m. EDT

— Drugstores are beginning their seasonal flu shot campaigns several weeks early this year, saying they expect greater demand for the vaccine in a year when the H1N1 strain has dominated the news.

“The CDC recommended that we start giving the flu shot once we get the flu shot. Our shipments showed up the middle of last week, so we started the end of august," Kerr Drug pharmacist Joe Heidrick said.

About 100 people got an early flu shot Thursday morning at the Kerr Drug at 201 S. Estes Dr. in Chapel Hill.

“We stopped in to find out when they (pharmacists) were going to start offering them and there was a sign, "Flu Shots Today." So here we are,” Jean Keene said of getting her flu shot at Kerr Drug.

“I know people who are already getting the flu, so I want to make sure that I'm protected and don't get it,” Leigh Robison said at the Kerr Drug.

Some people said they were concerned about getting the shot too early.

“I'm going to do some research on it and see if it is the time for myself and my family to take it,” Terri Clements said while stopping by the Kerr Drug.

The state has shipped 76,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine to health departments, hospitals and doctors offices. Heidrick said people should not worry about getting the shot early.

“Some people are a little apprehensive about getting the flu shot this early, and once again we reference the CDC and they ensure us that the flu shot is good for a full year,” Heidrick said.

“The flu shot is going to last for the season. I'm not worried about that,” Keene said.

The vaccine is intended to prevent the seasonal flu and is different than vaccines for H1N1 flu.

Beginning in mid- to late October, Kerr Drug's pharmacists will administer seasonal flu shots and the H1N1 flu vaccine. Kerr Drug will have 80,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine, Heidrick said.

At North Carolina State University, 158 students have been diagnosed with influenza or influenza-like symptoms, possibly H1N1, since the beginning of the fall semester, the school announced Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for children, the elderly, caregivers, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems or many other chronic health problems. According to a Walgreen survey, 50 percent of consumers plan to get the shot this year, up from 43 percent in 2008.

CVS Caremark Corp., Walgreen Co. and Rite Aid Corp. are also giving flu shots earlier this year, according to the Associated Press.

CVS said it was offering the shots three or four weeks earlier than usual. Walgreen said it started giving flu shots Oct. 1 last year.

The flu shot contains flu virus particles that are already dead, the CDC says, so it is not possible to get the flu from the vaccine.

According to the agency, about 226,000 Americans are hospitalized with the flu each year, and about 36,000 die.