On Tuesday, only two Walgreens pharmacies in the city had any vaccines left, and Colorado State University, with only 100 vaccines available, asked its 26,000 students now spread throughout the country on winter break to get vaccinated before returning to campus when residence halls open Thursday.
"When students begin to return to campus from winter break, the chance for students and employees to be exposed to the flu virus will increase substantially," CSU health officials said in an email to students Monday.
The vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective, so if students get vaccinated before they arrived back on campus "they would have an opportunity to begin building immunity before everyone converged on campus," said Anne Hudgens, executive director, CSU Health Network. "There's also an issue of supply. If people waited to get vaccinated until they are here, they could potentially already be exposed to sick people."
Walgreens pharmacist Amy Adams was bracing for an influx of students who might wait to get vaccinated until they return to Fort Collins. Her pharmacy ran out of vaccines on Tuesday, but she hoped to restock later this week. "It's just been kind of wild this year," she said.
Hudgens isn't sure what to expect in terms of student, faculty or staff illness when the semester begins on Monday.
"We know there is illness among faculty and staff, but we don't know if it's significant or not," Hudgens said. With people who are ill experiencing more severe symptoms than typical, recovery can take up to two weeks, she said. "If you're a student and missing two weeks out of a 16-week semester, it could have a significant impact."
Associates in Family Medicine, with eight offices throughout Larimer County, reported intermittent vaccine shortages.
"It's a day-to-day, week-to-week thing," practice administrator Dr. James Sprowell said. "We've had a pretty good demand for shots this year." And there's been a heavy stream of patients exhibiting flu symptoms such as fever, headache, chills and cough, he said.
At Miramont Family Medicine, Dr. John Bender said the practice has 250 doses available throughout the company's four offices.
"If one location runs short, we'll redistribute it," he said. Last week the offices saw an 87 percent increase in patients, many with flu symptoms. "It really came out of nowhere. Three weeks ago I had no positive" cases of the flu, he said. "It went from zero to boom."
Throughout Colorado 674 people in 36 counties were hospitalized with the flu, according to the Colorado Flu Report. The best advice before setting out to get a flu shot: Call your doctor's office or pharmacy to check on the supply of vaccines before showing up
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