There’s a big push for people to get their flu vaccine, especially during the pandemic, but pediatric offices around the Washington metro region are running out.
While adults have options like doctor’s offices, grocery stores, and pharmacies, age restrictions limit where children can get influenza vaccines.
Under Maryland law, a pharmacist can give flu shots to kids who are at least 9-years-old. In Washington DC it’s 12. Depending on the location, a pharmacy can vaccinate a 3-year-old in Virginia.
“The retail stores typically are not comfortable giving shots to infants and toddlers and young children. So, we are the resource for families,” said Dr. Sandy Chung.
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That means a pediatrician’s office is the place for parents to go. But offices around the DMV and the nation are canceling flu clinics because they are running out of vaccines.
“We’ve been planning for our flu clinics and have people signed up. We have one practice that had 300 people signed up that they had to cancel. Our own practice had over 100 that we had to cancel just this week,” said Dr. Chung.
She explained it not a supply shortage, but shipping delays and distribution issues
“I saw a CVS sign that said, ‘Free flu shots for the entire family.’ So, it seems like they have it,” ABC7 reporter Victoria Sanchez said during a Zoom interview with Dr. Chung.
That’s right,” she said. “Unfortunately, how our vaccine shipment process is set up in our nation, there are priorities given to larger companies, so your big box stores, retail stores, health systems sometimes, are getting vaccines before your doctor’s office. Your doctor’s office is often last on the list and also the ones that are impacted most significantly when there are shipment delays because we don’t have a lot of vaccines stored in our offices like a retail store might.
Chung said manufacturers are telling providers the reason for shipment delays is due to “weather.”
Most vaccines are private sector businesses, although the federal government encourages even distribution strategies.
“The Department of Health and Human Services and CDC do not have the authority to control influenza vaccine distribution nor the resources to manage such an effort,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states.
Dr. Chung said pediatric offices will get more vaccines.
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“Right now, I think it’s OK to wait a week or two, especially if we know the delay is temporary and so being patient and just rescheduling is probably the best course of action right now.”