More than 7,000 Boston residents received their flu shots last weekend, following Mayor Thomas Menino’s declaration of a public health emergency.
As of Tuesday, the virus had led to at least eight confirmed deaths in the city, including one child under the age of six and seven adults over age 65, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
“We have over 900 confirmed cases and eight deaths [in Boston],” Ferrer said. “Influenza-like illness at emergency rooms is running at a little over 5 percent [of all cases], which is very, very high."
Despite the city's ongoing issues with the virus, Ferrer said she was pleased with the turnout over the weekend at Boston clinics.
“We vaccinated over 7,000 people this weekend. That was a great effort with our partners,” Ferrer said. “We’re obviously very pleased that the general public turned out in large numbers and very pleased with the mayor’s leadership in declaring a public health emergency.”
For residents who didn’t get vaccinated, Ferrer said it’s not too late.
“Again, we want to make sure the message is clear: There’s still plenty of time to get vaccinated. We have probably at least another six to eight weeks left of the flu season, and we want people to remain vigilant,” she said.
Several major pharmacies, such as all the CVS stores in Boston, were out of the vaccination as of Wednesday, but may get shipments later in the week. Others, such as Walgreens and Rite-Aid are getting sporadic shipments that are going fast.
“Yesterday and today [Tuesday], most of the large chain pharmacies were expecting to get a lot more vaccines in. My sense is that you might have to call around to check which pharmacies have them already, but all of the large chain pharmacies said that they would have more supply this week,” Ferrer said. “We urge people if they need to find a place to go to get a free vaccine that they call us at 617-534-5050.”
Ferrer said most residents who are already sick should be able to treat their flu symptoms at home or with the help of their health care provider.
“In general, for most of us, if we get the flu we’re going to feel very sick, but we probably don’t need to go to the emergency room,” she said. “We urge people who are running a high fever, who are maybe having problems breathing or who seem like they’re getting dehydrated to call their primary care provider as soon as possible.”
But there are cases in which individuals should seek emergency help.
“Obviously any signs of shortness of breath or reduced mental capacity, such as confusion, or someone who has been vomiting for a long period of time, those would be situations where you clearly would go to the emergency room,” she said. “But, again, we ask most people to use their good judgment. Call your provider before you run over to the emergency room, unless, of course, it’s a life-threatening emergency."