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Flu shots in high demand as COVID-19 concerns continue to rise

Experts say it is not too late to get the flu shot, despite an expected peak in cases come November.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With yet another spike in COVID-19 cases, global concern over the pandemic is stirring up even more concern over influenza, which means the demand for flu shots is hitting an all-time high. 

While discussions over vaccinations have historically been controversial, experts say, the demand is sending a clear message that people are beginning to understand just how important the flu shot is, especially considering a vaccine for COVID-19 has yet to hit the market.

Dr. Michael Mineo is the Chief Medical Officer for Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. He says while he understands the frustration around having to wait, overall, the rate at which shots are flying off shelves is a good problem to have.

"This is a public health success," he says.

Even huge medical institutions such as Kaleida Health have had to make changes to meet this uniquely challenging supply-and-demand problem.

"At Kaleida and Visiting Nurses, we're able to adequately obtain the vaccine, but we're actually paying more than usual and going to more suppliers than usual just because there's so much demand on it," Dr. Mineo says.

In addition to Kaleida Health, smaller independent, community-driven businesses such as Buffalo Pharmacies are experiencing similar challenges. 

Alex Gillies is the general manager and oversees all three Buffalo Pharmacies locations. 

Gillies says while they've managed to keep up as much as possible by overpreparing, trying to match the supply for high dose vaccines, in particular, has been tough. 

"Once COVID hit we were actually allowed to change our pre-book so we went ahead and actually ordered from multiple vendors," he says.

A major reason high dose vaccines have been harder to find is due to the fact that they target seniors, ages 65 and up. Dr. Mineo says this demographic is aware that they're at a particularly higher risk when it comes to COVID-19 and are taking extra precautions, such as getting vaccinated.

"Our seniors are hearing the education from the media and their physicians and are hurrying out disproportionately to get their vaccinations," he says.

With a peak in cases expected to hit next month, experts are advising that it's still not too late to get vaccinated. And while there might be a wait, manufacturers are working hard to generate more vaccines, high and standard doses, at a faster pace.