HUDSON–People who still want a seasonal flu vaccination and have not been able to get one from the usual sources may want to visit a local Price Chopper supermarket.
While a supermarket may not be the first place that leaps to mind when considering where to get a seasonal flu shot, it is apparently the only place around here that has the vaccine.
Due to the scarcity of the seasonal flu vaccine, many physicians have advised their patients to go elsewhere for their annual flu shots, and no seasonal flu vaccine is currently available at the Columbia County Health Department.
But Price Chopper’s Community and Public Relations Manager Barbara Page told The Columbia Paper Tuesday that the supermarket chain has obtained a “plentiful” supply of the seasonal flu vaccine and has scheduled several dates and times when the shots will be administered at their in-store pharmacies.
The local seasonal flu clinic schedule at Price Chopper pharmacies is as follows:
*Chatham Price Chopper, 15 Dardess Drive, Saturday, December 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Monday, December 14, 1 to 3 p.m.
*Hudson Price Chopper, 351 Fairview Avenue, Greenport, Tuesday, December 15, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday, December 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
*East Greenbush Price Chopper, 501 Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer, Tuesday, December 15, 4 to 7 p.m.
The cost for a shot is $30. Medicare Parts B and D and many other health insurance plans are accepted, said Ms. Page.
The Price Chopper website says that people should consult the posted schedules but appointments are not necessary.
From the supermarket chain’s company headquarters in Schenectady, Ms. Page said that Price Chopper initially began vaccinating walk-in patients back in October. When the vaccine started becoming scarce, Price Chopper vaccinated by appointment and when the vaccine ran out, it started putting peoples’ names on a waiting list.
Ms. Page said that Price Chopper’s distributor produced a limited amount of seasonal flu vaccine early on and when fears escalated over the incidence and danger of the H1N1 flu, also known as the swine flu virus, the distributor switched focus, stopping production of the seasonal flu vaccine to concentrate on production of the H1N1 vaccine.
Now that the number of H1N1 flu cases has leveled off, as Columbia Memorial Hospital’s infectious disease consultant Dr. Ananthakrishnan Ramani confirmed in a December 3 story in The Columbia Paper, many distributors, like the one used by Price Chopper, have reverted back to production of the seasonal flu vaccine.
When the distributor recently announced a surplus and offered Price Chopper more seasonal flu vaccine, “we said ‘yes’,” said Ms. Page, noting that Price Chopper knew that many senior citizens seeking the vaccine had not yet received it.
Ms. Page said that during a vaccination clinic at Price Chopper’s Plattsburgh store last weekend, 250 were vaccinated and another 150 more doses of the vaccine were shipped to the store from headquarters to satisfy the demand from people who still wanted it. Whatever the demand in Columbia County, Ms. Page said, “We have a good supply and should not run out.”
Noting that the seasonal flu peaks in January and February, Ms. Page said there is still time to get vaccinated.
Columbia County Department of Health Spokesperson Patricia Abitabile said her department was unaware that Price Chopper was offering its upcoming clinics, adding, “At this point [the health department] is not aware of any seasonal vaccine anywhere.
“The state Health Department’s immunization department is in the process of allocating seasonal flu vaccine through federal sources that this department hopes to receive,” said Ms. Abitabile, but “no date has yet been confirmed.”
After being informed of the Price Chopper clinics, Ms. Abitabile said, the supermarket chain may have been able to obtain “back ordered privately purchased” vaccine, but “only in a small amount.”
Back in September, the county health department announced a schedule of seasonal flu clinics in various locations around the county throughout October and one in November. The shots cost $25 through the health department and Medicare Part B, Blue Shield of Northeast New York, Senior Whole Health and Today’s Options health insurances were accepted.
But in late October, the department’s seasonal flu vaccine supply ran dry and an October 21 clinic in Ghent and a November 18 clinic in Canaan were cancelled.
In an October 22 release, the county health department said it expected shipments of seasonal flu vaccine in two to three weeks, but they never materialized.
Ms Abitabile said her department has received no communications about the production of seasonal flu being stepped up.