Doctor’s offices and clinics were inundated with calls from patients Thursday seeking flu shots, a day after Boston declared a health emergency in response to a rising number of flu cases. Health officials said there is an ample supply of vaccine.
At Harvard Vanguard, Dr. Benjamin Kruskal, infectious disease chief, said the large medical group’s “phones were ringing off the hook” with patients seeking vaccinations, while Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s outpatient primary care practices experienced about a 10 percent rise in patients requesting immunization.
About 60 patients were vaccinated by primary-care practices affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on Thursday, about twice the typical number during the flu season.
“We don’t have a vaccination shortage, nor do we expect one, though there may possibly be a Tamiflu shortage,” said Beth Israel spokeswoman Kelly Lawman.
Tamiflu is a prescription antiviral medication used to treat flu symptoms and to prevent infections in those who have been exposed to the virus.
Boston public health officials placed robocalls to nearly 45,000 residents, including 27,000 senior citizens, urging those who have not been vaccinated to contact their doctor or visit a free clinic this weekend. The city has arranged for flu shots to be offered for free at 21 community health centers across Boston. (For a list, go to www.cityofboston.gov.)
“I got my flu shot, and I’m asking every Boston resident over the age of 6 months to do the same,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “It’s the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family during this severe flu season.”
Mayor Joseph Curatone of Somerville said Thursday that his city had run out of vaccine. Later in the day, his office said the city would be receiving 100 donated doses from the Cambridge Health Alliance.
Overall, though, vaccine supplies are ample, according to the state Department of Public Health.
“We reached out to all the local boards of health to make sure they have all the vaccine they need and to recommend that they hold free clinics,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, the department’s interim commissioner.
Fewer than 10 local health boards requested additional doses of the vaccine, she added.
The Health Department has delivered three-quarters of a million doses of the vaccine to community clinics, homeless shelters, and other public sites so far this season.
Smith said the department has no plans to declare a state health emergency like the one declared by Boston.
“We’re receiving information from school nurses that indicates, for the most part, that rates of illness and absenteeism seem similar to what they were last year,” she said. “I think this really speaks to the effective state initiative to vaccinate kids.”
Governor Deval Patrick also urged people to get vaccinated.
“This is serious; there is a heightened level of flu activity across the state,” Patrick said at a press conference. “But we’re prepared.’’