A record number of Anne Arundel residents lined up for flu shots this fall, leaving the county with a scant supply of the vaccine for therest of the flu season.
But the county still has a small supply left, which officials hope will last the flu season, said Dr. Linda Joe, director of epidemiology and communicable disease control at the Health Depeartment.
More than 8,000 people have received shots at county health clinics, senior centers and churches, nearly a 40 percent increase over last year, officials say.
The demand outstripped the county Health Department's vac
cine supply last month and forced the agency to borrow several hundred doses from the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.
Across the nation, more people than ever decided to get flu shots this year, leading to shortages in some regions. The New York Times reported Friday that the nation's largest vaccine manufacturers and distributors were running out of shots. Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and cities in Massachusetts and Georgia were scrambling for extra doses.
Even areas that ordered additional vaccines this fallwere caught off-guard, Joe said. Anne Arundel County budgeted for a substantial increase over last year's 5,700 participants and ordered 8,000 doses this fall. But within weeks, many of the county's 10 health clinics were requesting more vaccines.
"We noticed that we weregoing at a substantially faster clip," Joe said. "It seems that everybody in the state has been giving out substantially more than last year."
Health officials are uncertain what prompted the increase. Some attributed it to greater awareness about vaccines, while others cited reports of new flu strains with longer-lasting symptoms.
"In the last two years, there has been a conscious effort to get the information out early so that people get their shots early in November," Joe said. "You want your body to build the necessary antibodies earlyon."
The flu season officially began Sunday, but the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported some strains were found several weeks ago in New Jersey and Tennessee. This year's flu
shotincludes protection against the A/Beijing virus, which spread acrossthe nation last winter.
The county Health Department is asking residents who don't really need the vaccine to defer until next year, Joe said. Seniors, chronically ill children, AIDS patients and people with heart and lung diseases are at risk of developing complications and should get a flu shot. Others "just suffer and are miserable for a couple of weeks," Joe said.
Many health-maintenance organizations and private doctors also still have some vaccines left, she said.