Residents finding high-dose flu shots in short supply

Troy Shantz

Some Sarnians may have to wait to get a flu shot this fall.

The shortage is most acute for the higher-dose Fluzone vaccine, which is recommended for adults 65 and older, local pharmacists say.

Sarnia’s Hadie Winterhelt, 73, spent one morning last week unsuccessfully calling more than 15 providers in search of a high-dose flu shot.

“I called almost every pharmacy here and in Corunna,” she said.

“They didn’t give me a date for when the stronger one will be coming. They think it may be towards the end of October.”

Front Street Pharmacy in Sarnia received less than half the supply it requested through the supply chain, said pharmacist Marian Atia.

“Unfortunately, the high-dose was not as abundant as we all thought it would be. I was hoping to give more of the high dose to my seniors, but I only really got a few (doses) to be honest.”

Each shipment is a percentage of their total allotment for the year, Aita explained, and it’s based on how many flu shots were administered in previous years.

Ontario announced in September it was spending $70 million on more than five million flu vaccine doses, 16% more than last year.

Though some pharmacies have run out of flu shots because of high demand this fall, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said last week there is no shortage and the province has a “good supply.”

Health protection supervisor Crystal Palleschi said Lambton Public Health has not been told by the province there’s a shortage.

“It’s important to note that the ministry doesn’t get all their vaccines at once, so they distribute smaller quantities in early to mid-October,” she explained.

“If some locations are running out of their vaccine from this initial allocation, they are going to be receiving more.”

The high-dose version, she noted, is prioritized for long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals and other settings with vulnerable populations.

She warned against seniors waiting for a high-dose shot if the regular vaccine is available.

“The message from the province has been not to delay vaccination to wait for a particular product, because both the standard dose and the high dose protect against the flu,” she said.

“The most important thing is for the older adults to be vaccinated.”