The flu may be spreading across the nation in a serious outbreak, but there still doesn't seem to be too much worry about it in Peabody.
"There's still a lot of vaccine out there," explains Peabody Health Director Sharon Cameron, and unlike in Boston, there's been no mad dash here to local pharmacies that she's aware of.
A trip over to the CVS on Main Street Monday afternoon appeared to confirm that -- signs were prominently displayed for walk-in flu shots, but no one was waiting for one at the pharmacy. Cameron noted the store staff was announcing the availability of flu shots to customers when she was in another CVS recently.
Cameron says there is no shortage of vaccine on the North Shore between pharmacies and doctors' offices and that's one reason the city, at least, is not on high alert even though the number of confirmed flu cases is much higher than last year.
That number is 109, confirmed by the state Department of Public Health between Dec. 1 and Jan. 13, said Cameron. Last year's figure was zero for that same time period. No deaths have been reported.
Still, many people don't go to their doctor or receive treatment for the flu and thus don't take tests to confirm, Cameron said. So it's difficult to accurately assess how many actually came down with the virus.
The particular strain of flu circulating this year (H3/N2) is also more severe than other types of the virus; however, the vaccine itself is only 55-60 percent effective (in the aggregate) against preventing the flu, said Cameron. The vaccine generally may be more or less effective between different age groups.
"So people need to take those preventative measures, they're almost more effective [than the vaccine]," Cameron said, i.e. washing hands frequently, covering your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough, wiping down surfaces such as doorknobs, etc.
"In most cases, people are kind of sheepish they haven't gotten their shot yet," she said, referring to calls her office has received in recent days.
Cameron also noted local hospitals or other medical providers have been hosting regional flu clinics as well. CVS is also offering a special discount to anyone who comes in for a flu shot.
As of Jan. 10, the Health Department administered 635 free flu shots at clinics around the city so far this season and Cameron expected to give another 20 shots -- the remainder of the city's supply -- at a flu clinic on Monday residents had already signed up for.
She said the state supplied her office with 340 vaccinations this past summer and the city then purchased the remainder privately. There are no plans to purchase anymore and neither is the state DPH planning to replenish its exhausted supplies, she said.
The Boston Business Journal reports, however, that at least some CVS pharmacies around Boston and up on the North Shore are saying they are all out of flu shots now.