Hundreds scramble for flu vaccine in Portland


by Wayne Havrelly

Posted on January 12, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 13 at 12:03 PM

PORTLAND -- Hundreds of people scrambled over the weekend to get their flu shot after hearing news the outbreak was coming to a peak in Portland.

The rush for the vaccine had nearly every pharmacy in the downtown area sold out.

Procrastinators and people who normally avoid flu shots like Melissa Lunde in Salem were left standing in long lines Saturday. 

"I waited till I heard it all over the news that its a real big problem, probably not the best idea," said Lunde who took advantage of free shots at a Salvation Army health fair Saturday.

A national flu outbreak has increased demand for flu shots all over the Northwest.  In fact, many pharmacies and clinics in the Portland metro area are out of vaccine. 

Interactive: National flu outbreak

Early Saturday, the Safeway on Southwest Lovejoy Street in the Pearl District was the only downtown area pharmacy that still had flu vaccine in stock. 

"Because they are aware of the demand, some of the vaccine manufacturers are working on producing additional vaccine," said Dr. Richard Leman and epidemiologist with Oregon Public Health.

Leman said the flu is here and cases are now running around three times higher than normal.

"The reason we know this is we have doctors around the state that work with us and collect info and tell us how many folks they've seen with flu or flu-like symptoms," said Leman.

Clark county health officials are also reporting a significant jump in flu cases.

"More severe illness including a higher risk of complications, the worst being pneumonia," said Clark County Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick.

Health officials say getting a vaccination is by far the single most effective way to avoid catching this ugly bug.  However, the vaccine goes fast.  

The Oregon Health Authority has a website to help you find vaccine in your zip code.