AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- As the flu spreads, the amount of available influenza vaccine has started to dwindle, as more people seek out a flu shot to protect them against this year's nasty strains of the virus.
NEWS CENTER contacted several pharmacies in the greater Portland area, and found many had little or no flu vaccine available. The Maine Center for Disease Control says that has more to do with distribution issues than with a shortage of the vaccine.
"There is flu vaccine around, and the question then becomes one of the distribution of the vaccine," stated state epidemiologist, Dr. Stephen Sears. "If you go to one place, it might not be there and you should ask that pharmacy to try to get it for you or when they can get it, because all over the country there is not an overall shortage. So there is a supply, it just might be short in one place."
The Maine CDC says they have plenty of vaccine available to provide to medical centers, clinics and doctors offices, but they do not provide the vaccines to commercial pharmacies.
"Some of my stores are out, and we are restocking them now, so there will be more available," said Joe Bruno, owner of the Community Pharmacy chain. "We pre-ordered our allotment plus some, and we have been buying it on the spot market now because all the manufacturers are pretty much out, so you go to different distributors to try to find it right now."
Bruno says some of his more northern stores still had a decent supply on hand, so he planned to take some of their stock and bring it to stores that are out to help meet the demand.
He says they are seeing people come in to get their flu shots who may not in a normal flu season.
"We're up 30% over last year, yet we're ordering more right now to make sure that we can continue," he said. "It hasn't fully hit Maine yet. People have time to get immunized now."
The Maine CDC says it takes ten days to two weeks for the vaccine to begin providing protection. With the flu already widespread in Maine, and the peak season yet to come, they are urging everyone to get their flu shot.
"There is no question this is one of the worst years for the flu that we have seen in five, if not ten years," said Dr. Sears. "Our emergency rooms are filled up. Our hospitals are filled up. Our doctors offices are filled up."
"Unfortunately people die from the flu," he added. "It is one of the reasons we spend a lot of time to try to get people vaccinated."