EUGENE, Ore. — A KEZI 9 News viewer found the flu vaccine at his children’s pediatricians office. But he was told they couldn’t get the shot. He e-mailed us to find answers about why the vaccine was just out of reach.
“I was noticing that flu’s coming through the Eugene area, so I called Crescent Family Medicine to see if I could get my kids in to get a flu shot,” said parent Kevin Taylor.
Taylor made the same call a lot of other parents did this week, as a national flu outbreak spreads into Western Oregon. But the response he got from the Oregon Medical Group Pediatric Clinic surprised him.
“They said, ‘Well, what type of insurance do you have?’ I said, ‘I have Blue Cross Blue Shield.’ I waited a second and she said, ‘We don’t have any flu vaccines available.’ Then I said, ‘Was there any reason you asked me what type of insurance I had?’ She goes, ‘Well, we only have flu vaccines right now for the Oregon Health Plan patients,’” Taylor said.
Since Taylor has private insurance, his kids are out of luck. They’re too young to get the vaccines at Bi-mart, Albertson’s or Walgreens. Those pharmacies are almost all out anyway.
We’ve seen the easy years and we’ve seen the challenging years. Dr. Scott Johnson, an Oregon Medical Group family physician says so far, it’s been a very typical year.
Dr. Johnson weathered his share of flu seasons in his 16 years as a family physician. The current shortage isn’t surprising to him.
“We started giving them back in September, so most of our clinics have very few doses left,” Johnson said.
But some of those doses that are left, as Taylor found out, are already spoken for.
“The Oregon Health Plan purchases a certain number of vaccines every year. Those are set aside for those patients,” Johnson said.
“I don’t know how many vaccines the Oregon Health Plan bought and if it bought them for every patient who’s on the Oregon Health Plan. There’s going to be individuals who don’t use them. And if they don’t use them, what’s going to happen to them?” Taylor said.
That’s the question we tried to get answered with calls to the Oregon Health Authority. It says any unused doses are returned to the CDC at the end of the season, but there usually aren’t many leftover.