Every year I try to get in on flu shots as early as possible. Not just for me but for my family as well. I always check first with the local clinic that is part of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center to determine when we can get signed up for the shots. This year with all the worry about H1N1 virus and the vaccine that will not be available until October, we thought we would get in early to get the normal flu shot taken care of to eliminate at least one risk.
During a normal visit for a physical we asked when we could get signed up for the flu vaccine. We had heard in the news that flu shots were now available. The attendant gave us a distant and almost angry stare after we asked the question. She said curtly that we were in a long line of people asking the same question and she couldn’t answer it. In fact, due to all the questions she had inquired directly to UMass Medical and they couldn’t tell her when. “Well, why can’t we get a flu shot, don’t you have any? Walgreens and CVS are offering the shots now. Why can’t a normal clinic or hospital get the vaccine?” She was quite angry that her organization couldn’t answer her questions (or wouldn’t) and could not get the vaccine (or wouldn’t).
This started to disturb me as these types of things do and I started to ask questions and dig around the net. I found several things off the World Health Organization site:
I also started digging into US-based manufacturers of the vaccine and found more information:
When I search the Sanofi-Aventis site for flu, influenza, vaccine; I cannot find anything for the 2009 year.
Anyway, I decided I would go to a nearby Walgreens who had the advertisement for flu shots strategically placed near the road next to their store. I proceeded back to the pharmacy section. Two customers (senior citizens) were ahead of me filling out forms for the flu vaccine. When it came my turn, they requested my doctor’s name, phone number and fax number. I could provide the name and number since it had it stored in my Blackberry. Apparently they notify your doctor when receiving the vaccine. I filled out the forms and waited my turn. I provided my insurance card assuming my insurance would cover the shot. Silly me. I had to pay $24.99 for the shot either cash or a direct debit against my healthcare spending account. This was definitely a profit making enterprise to receive something that could save my life. So for the $24.99, of course I paid the fee and received the shot indicating I would be bringing my family back the next day.
The next day we arrived and my wife and kids entered the store only to find out that they were not authorized/allowed to give shots to anyone under 18. So, my two kids were not allowed to get the flu shot. The next business day we again called the clinic to find out when we could get our kids in for their flu shots. The same answer as before.
What perplexes me about this whole situation is that this seems to smack of a purely profit making venture not in the spirit of healthcare but of corporate profits. What worries me even more is that schools, colleges and universities are prime breeding grounds of flu and H1N1 (the death this past weekend of a student at Cornell form the H1N1 and other universities experiencing huge numbers of sick students are indications of the seriousness of the H1N1). If I can get a normal flu shot for my kids who spend six hours a day in one of the prime breeding grounds, what are we going to face with the H1N1 when the vaccine is ready for distribution? Are we going to face a decision between corporate profits and a pandemic situation? Who is going to get the vaccine first for this?
Something just does not seem to be right here but I just do not have enough insider information as yet.
I have tried one solution that seems to be working so for (see picture above) but I may be under investigation soon for cruelty to stuffed animals and my kids are voicing some concern as well. Does anyone out there have any insights as to how drug companies and pharmacies work together and why hospitals cannot seem to get the vaccine first?