PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – Get your flu shot now. This is the message that Florida Department of Health officials send to Floridians. However, if you are planning on receiving the higher dose vaccine, you may have more trouble finding it.
This year, more Americans are expected to get a flu shot than ever before. According to a recent study by Reuters, demand for the flu vaccine has increased by 15% as more people worry that the flu will affect their immunity and make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
“This year you can see that people are concerned. They want to protect themselves, ”said Trish Huynh, pharmacy manager at Alexander Pharmacy on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park.
Huynh is working to secure as many cans as possible.
“The regular flu shot is available because we reserve it in advance,” she said. “But the high-dose ones are sneaking in. We keep an eye on the warehouse and if we see one we grab it.”
Nationwide, doctors and hospitals say the higher-dose vaccine, which is recommended for people over 65, is shorter. Many Tampa Bay pharmacies, hospitals, and health departments tell ABC Action News that they are now in stock, but the higher dose could run out if more people get the flu vaccinations.
Nishant Anand, executive vice president and chief medical officer at BayCare Health Systems, says now is the time to think about getting a flu shot.
“Especially if you have chronic illnesses, you don’t want to take any risks to your health,” he added.
The vaccine could be crucial in making sure hospitals aren’t overwhelmed by COVID-19 and flu outbreaks at the same time. Anand says that since COVID-19 symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, he fears that more people will have to be quarantined if someone goes to work or school with the flu, but it’s confused for COVID-19.
“During the January and February flu season, the hospitals are pretty full and then you add another stressor like COVID and you can have some really serious hospital resource challenges. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, it is important to me in my opinion to do it for those you come in contact with and for the wider community at large, ”Anand added.
If you can’t find the higher dose, doctors recommend getting regular flu shots instead.
Getting enough sleep, exercise, stress relief, and eating well can also help boost your immunity.
Jason West, a doctor with the West Clinic, recommends this to his patients.
“Right now, people have the opportunity to clean up their lives and get their immune systems healthy,” he said.
The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October. It will take approximately 2 weeks from the time you receive the vaccine to provide protection.