BANGOR, Maine — Monday marked the last day of summer, and for some Mainers, the first day of the flu vaccine season. By 11:15 in the morning, more than 130 people at Miller Drug had rolled up their sleeves for their annual flu shot, hoping to ward off the seasonal malady that sickens millions of Americans and kills an estimated 35,000 each year.
The line at Miller Drug formed outside before the store opened. For much of the morning, it snaked up and down the aisles of the State Street store, at times extending out into the parking lot. One man, who chose not to be identified, walked in to get a flu shot, took a look at the line and walked out again.
“I could catch the flu standing in that line,” he remarked, shaking his head.
Nurses from the Bangor Area Visiting Nurses agency administered the vaccines.
Inside, Lisa Asnis, 82, of Orono said she gets a flu shot every year.
“I always come to Miller’s,” she said. “They’re very accommodating.”
Ann Blalack of Bangor said she never skips the annual flu vaccine. This year, she said, she’s getting the seasonal shot earlier than usual so that when the new vaccine against the H1N1 swine flu becomes available, at least a month will have passed since she got the seasonal vaccine. That’s how long public health experts have recommended waiting between the seasonal vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, although the guidelines are still evolving.
Both Asnis and Blalack said they have no hesitation about getting the H1N1 vaccine when it is available.
Limited supplies are expected to arrive in Maine within a few weeks; initial doses will be administered to children and young adults, pregnant women and health care providers before being made available to the general public.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that about 40 percent of Maine’s overall supply of seasonal flu vaccine has already arrived in the state. The remainder will likely be delayed due to a bottleneck in the national supply, she said, as manufacturers try to meet the demand for both the seasonal and the H1N1 vaccines.
At this time, Mills said, the majority of seasonal vaccine doses are still expected by the end of October, with all doses delivered by early November.
While previous recommendations have advised separating the seasonal vaccine from the H1N1 vaccine by several weeks, Mills said there’s no reason not to get both vaccines at the same time.
Young children will probably need two H1N1 vaccines, separated by several weeks, in order to get full protection, she said, but older children and adults will only need one dose.
Many schools in Maine are partnering with state and local agencies this fall to offer free seasonal flu vaccines to youngsters at on-site clinics, with parental consent required. At the Bangor School Department, a clinic scheduled for this Friday, Sept. 25, has been postponed due to the delay in obtaining the necessary supply of vaccine.
Superintendent Betsy Webb said Monday that the clinic will be rescheduled soon, but encouraged students and families who are concerned about getting flu vaccines early in the season to check with their regular health care providers or go to another public clinic.