Facing the region’s worst outbreak of influenza in years, local residents are rushing to get their flu shots, and many clinics are struggling to keep up with the demand.
Amesbury and Salisbury’s health departments, along with many medical clinics and pharmacies in the area, have seen their supply of flu shots exhausted since Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency on Wednesday. Most others are running low, and all have reported the biggest rushes on flu shots in some time.
The concern isn’t without warrant either; Anna Jaques Hospital reported yesterday that they have already had 60 confirmed flu cases since New Years alone, an alarming statistic considering the hospital hadn’t had any confirmed cases at this point last year.
Overall, there have been over 700 cases of the flu in Boston since Oct. 1, compared to just 70 since this point last year, and yesterday the state Department of Public Health announced that it would be taking additional measures to help address the crisis.
“This is the strongest flu season nationally and in Massachusetts in several years,” said Anne Roach, a DPH spokesperson, in a press release. “The latest statewide data shows that rates of flu-like illness are on the rise in Massachusetts, earlier in the flu season than in recent years.”
Newburyport public health director Bob Bracey said his office purchased 100 additional vaccines after Menino’s public health emergency declaration, adding that the city will be holding extended hours next week when people can come in and get their flu shot for free.
“We’ll offer the shot to anyone who wants it, whether you’re a Newburyport resident or not,” Bracey said. “The state has told us they don’t have any more vaccines, so that’s why we went ahead and purchased them. If there is a need for us to purchase more, we’ll seek avenues to do so.”