Health officials earlier this year asked people who hadn't received a flu shot to put on a mask when visiting health facilities.

Health officials earlier this year asked people who hadn't received a flu shot to put on a mask when visiting health facilities.

Flu vaccine in short supply at some Penticton pharmacies

More people seeking shots this week after first deaths associated with H1N1 and even more virulent H5N1 strain

Flu shots are in short supply at some Penticton pharmacies following a surge in customers seeking a poke this week.

Tara Kamann, a part-owner and pharmacist at Riverside Pharmasave, said Thursday the store had only about 20 doses left and was unsure if more would be available from Interior Health.

“We get what they can give us,” she said.

It was the same story at Shoppers Drug Mart, where owner and pharmacist Shannon Crawford expected to run out by Friday.

“We’re ordering more, but I don’t know if we’re getting more,” she said.

Both pharmacists said demand spiked this week following reports of deaths associated with the H1N1 flu virus, including a woman in the Okanagan who was B.C.’s first known victim.

Interior Health senior medical health officer Rob Parker said Wednesday that approximately 95 per cent of the region’s 140,000-dose supply of vaccinations have been administered, while the rest will be distributed to areas with the highest demand.

He suggested people call their local health units to find out if, and where, flu shots might still be available.

As of Thursday, there were 40 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1 within the Interior Health region and more expected.

“Influenza is circulating widely and the situation will still get worse,” Parker said. “The risk of exposure will increase in upcoming days or weeks.”

It’s not a cause for panic, but what’s different about this flu outbreak, the doctor explained, is its impact on otherwise healthy, young people.

“This year the H1N1 strain seems to be hitting pre-schoolers and working-age adults with more serious presentations,” he said.

Parker cited privacy rules as he declined to provide more information about the Okanagan H1N1 fatality, including in which hospital the woman died. The virus was responsible for nine deaths in Alberta and six in Saskatchewan as of Tuesday, according to the most recent available information from the provinces’ respective health ministries.

B.C.’s health ministry also announced that a person infected with the more severe H5N1 flu strain passed through Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 27 en route to Alberta.

The traveller’s death on Jan. 4 was the first in North America attributed to the H5N1 strain.

With files from the Kelowna Capital News

 

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