George Pesta turned purple once.
"When I get the flu, I get it real bad," the 47-year-old Hubbard resident recalled.
Despite last year's "swine flu" pandemic, local pharmacies and physicians are reporting a decrease in the number of flu vaccines given, even though this year's immunization includes influenza A (H1N1).
The Ohio Department of Health reported a total of 1.6 million H1N1 vaccinations last year, based on data entered by approved Ohio providers. However, because some providers didn't input their data into the system, ODH believes that number to be significantly higher.
"Flu shots aren't quite as in demand this year because there isn't a shortage," ODH Public Information Officer Jennifer House explained. She said last year's shortage was due to the peak in the flu season beginning in October instead of January, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weren't prepared for. She said the ODH hopes the number of individuals vaccinated is at least as high as last year.
Pamela Hallett, 57, the office manager for the Trumbull Mahoning Medical Group, said the number of vaccinations given by their physicians this year is down by a thousand - less than any other year.
Where to get a flu
l Warren City Health Department: walk-in from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m., $5.
l Niles Health Department:?Child immunization 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
l St. Joe's at the Mall:?Eastwood Mall, 8 a,m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
l Local Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS and Giant Eagle pharmacies
"Sometimes people don't think about the flu season when the weather's this nice," Hallett explained.
She also attributes the decline to the growing availability of the vaccination to include grocery stores and drug stores in addition to physicians and health care centers. The medical group's vaccinated patients mainly consist of the elderly, but Hallett said they highly recommend the shot to "high-risk groups," which includes anyone older than the age of 50, as well as those with underlying medical conditions.
Walgreens pharmacist Brent Groscost, 39, Hubbard, said some people might be refraining because they already received the H1N1 vaccine last year.
"They should still get the seasonal flu vaccine," he said, explaining that even though they might retain immunity to H1N1, it won't prevent them from contracting other influenza strains, and it's still safe for them to receive the vaccine again.
The Trumbull County Health Department is reporting less than 500 vaccines this year, as opposed to their usual yearly average of 2,500. They charge $20 for their vaccine, which is $5 to $10 less than other local providers.
"We try to keep our costs just enough to cover the vaccine and the administrative fees," said Selene Alyton, 60.
Not all flu vaccine providers are reporting a decline in immunizations. Rite Aid pharmacist Patricia Tomko, 49, said their numbers are up at the Hubbard pharmacy location.
"We were one of the originals that became an immunizing pharmacy in 2005 when they first started in the state of Ohio," Tomko explained.
Because of this, Tomko said they have a strong patient base. This year, the flu vaccine is being covered at drug stores by Ohio Medicaid for the first time, which may also be a factor for the location's increase in vaccinations.
Despite last year's swine flu scare, Tomko doesn't believe it will encourage people to get the vaccine that normally wouldn't. "People that want the flu shot will get the flu shot," she said.
For those who don't like needles, a nasal spray is an alternative method of vaccination, but unlike the shot which contains an inactive strain of the flu virus, Tomko said the nasal mist contains a live one.
"You can't get sick with the flu shot," she said, although you may experience mild symptoms - such as a runny nose or a slight fever - with the nasal mist.
"The flu shot is still the safest and easiest way for people to protect themselves," House said.