After Initial Shortage, Health Officials Now Fear Flu Shots Will Go to Waste

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In spite of warnings last fall of a critical flu shot shortage, it now appears Florida may end up with a surplus of the lifesaving vaccine.

Health officials have brought in hundreds of thousands of doses for older people, very young children, people with health problems, and their caregivers, but some of those vaccines may go unused.

Lakeshia Williams brought her son Kiel in to get a flu shot at a neighborhood clinic. No lines, no wait, they just made an appointment and came in.

“I know that flu can make people very sick and I just want to do anything that I can to protect my son.”

The state Department of Health recently expanded the list of people encouraged to get flu shots to include anyone 50 and over, children up to 35 months old, and their household contacts.

Florida received more than 200,000 adult doses of flu vaccine just last week, on top of the tens of thousands of doses that have come in since fall, but health officials fear some of those doses could go to waste.

Every year, there are some vaccines that don’t get used by the time they expire in April, but the concern is long lines this fall and restrictions on who could get a flu shot may have discouraged people from even bothering. There is vaccine available in every county.

Florida Health Secretary John Agwunobi says if your doctor doesn’t have any, call your county health department.

"At the beginning of this flu season there was a lot of talk about the fact that there was a shortage of flu vaccines. Right now my biggest concern is all of those who could be vaccinated really aren’t coming forward and saying we want to be vaccinated.”

Flu season has been mild in Florida so far this year, but several flu deaths have already been reported in other states, and Florida is just now entering its peak flu season.

Some states have completely lifted restrictions on flu shots to encourage more people to get them. About five and a half million Floridians are eligible under the current guidelines, but health officials think only about three million will actually get a flu shot.

Who should get a flu shot:

- people 50 and older
- children 6 months to 35 months old
- nursing home residents
- people with chronic health conditions
- children and teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
- pregnant women
- household contacts of anybody on the list