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Flu Vaccine Getting Scarce

The cold and flu season is here and there are only a few doses of flu vaccine remaining. The Alexandria City Council got a briefing on what citizens can do as prevention and intervention.

Mayor William D. Euille asked Dr. Charles Konigsberg, the director of the Alexandria Health Department, to talk about flu in the city at this week’s Council meeting.

“It is almost impossible to tell you just how many cases of the flu we have seen, either in Alexandria or throughout the country,” Konisgberg said. “We can tell you how many rapid flu tests have been administered at Inova Alexandria Hospital but this isn’t even really a representative picture of what’s happening in the city because we have no way to know whether these patients are from here or elsewhere throughout the region.

“What we do know is that the Centers for Disease Control is saying that there are more reported cases of the flu at this point in the flu season than we have seen since 1976. We also know that 80 million doses of vaccine were made and distributed and everyone is running out of the vaccine because of the increased demand this year,” he said.

And no more can be made.

“It [vaccine] can be made, but it has to be grown and that takes about four months,” Konigsberg said. “By that time, the flu season will be over.”

The Alexandria Health Department will be out of its supply of flu vaccine by the end of this week, according to Konigsberg. “Do you prioritize who gets it,” asked Councilman Rob Krupicka.

Konigsberg said 'no.'

“In the past, we have given a flu shot to anyone who has asked for one because there has always been plenty to go around,” he said. “This year, I suspect we are going to wish we had prioritized a little more, but we didn’t.”

THE VACCINE is particularly important to children under 24 months of age and people who are older than 65. “These are the individuals who are most susceptible to developing complications and having serious illnesses,” Konigsberg said.

As to the rest of us, “The best prevention is really the flu shot,” Konigsberg said. “I could tell you not to go out into crowds but that isn’t really practical.”

Euille asked which other groups of people should get flu shots. “Healthcare workers and those who work in nursing homes,” Konigsberg said. “They are going to be the people who are the most exposed to the flu virus and who could pass it on to others.”

And if you get the flu…"Go to a doctor and get medication,” Konigsberg said. “There are medicines that are effective if you start taking them soon enough.”

Although the Health Department is nearly out of vaccine, there are private physicians who still have some. Check with your doctor if you are in a high risk category or if you just feel that you need to have the vaccine.

ONE PLACE in Alexandria said they had vaccine left for flu shots. The Alexandria Medical Arts Pharmacy, 315 South Washington Street, said they had vaccine but urged people to not hesitate in getting the shots as their supply was limited.

The pharmacy is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., except from 1:15-2 p.m. for lunch. Walk-ins welcomed. The cost is $20. Call 703-549-4350.