A sense of increasing urgency about the seasonal flu – which has so far spared California from a nearly nationwide outbreak but is expected to come this way – has prompted more people to seek vaccines.
Some are finding that pharmacies are out of the flu vaccine in locations around Southern California, though health officials say some vaccine is still available.
With an early start to its season, the influenza outbreak has so far affected 47 states. California, Hawaii and Mississippi have not yet seen illness at nearly the same levels as those states, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Incidents of the flu are expected in increase in California in coming weeks, the CDC predicts. Those predictions, and increase media attention, have prompted a run on flu shots, some pharmacies are reporting.
The CDC, however, says there is still vaccine left, though patients may have to make calls to find a pharmacy with shots available, or wait for a new shipement to come in. The vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective after injection or inhalation.
"We're hearing of spot shortages,'' said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the centers.
Traditionally, most people get vaccinated in the fall, so it's normal for the vaccine to be in shorter supply at this time of year, health officials said.
Local news from across Southern California
At an independent pharmacy in Encino, owner Don Blumkin said he's seen a rise in demand for the flu vaccine within the last week. His location, West-Val Pharmacy, gives about 30 vaccines a day, he said, saying he's concerned about a shortage.
"Is there a shortage? With flu vaccine there, is extreme shortage. We're lucky to get it on a day to day basis," Blumkin said.
The CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age to get a vaccine, especially those with certain medical conditions, pregnant women and people 65 and older. The centers said on Thursday that early estimates showed the vaccines was 62 percent effective.
The federal government has created an interactive online map showing locations that offer the vaccine.
Tim Soos of Encino said he luckily had no trouble finding a shot on Saturday.
"I want to take it just in case it gets to California -- so I don't have to stay in bed," Soos said.
Doctors said media attention to the still-spreading virus has increased demand for the vaccine.
"In last few days, we've had rush of patients who didn't think they wanted it," said Dr. Nancy Zimble, a pediatrician in Encino. "Now they do."
Zimble said she finished her available supply Saturday.
Pharmacy chains and owners recommended that patients who want the vaccine call to check on supply before coming in person.
A spokesman for Vons and Pavilions said all locations of the two grocery and pharmacy chains are offering flu shots. The stores have a one- to two-week supply, said Carlos Illingworth of Vons Public Affairs.
Some CVS/pharmacy and Rite Aid locations have reportedly run out, but they said they would be restocking. NBC4 viewers said some Walgreens locations had run out as well.
Vaccines can cost anywhere from $16 to $45.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.