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| November 5, 2020

Shortage of Flu Shot Wreaks Havoc on Healthcare In Illinois

Nqaba Matshazi

Nqaba has been working as an investigative journalist for the last 10 years. He has written for various media outlets across the world. Nqaba has been working as an investigative journalist for the last 10 years. He has written for various media outlets across the world.

The healthcare system throughout America has been brought under great duress due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases accompanied by the return of flu season. Among the many complications, the supply of medications is decreasing.

One of the most important recent developments is the shortage of flu shots needed for elderly individuals. While it is a terrible tragedy, and something that needs to be worked on in the short and long-term, there are several implications of this on healthcare in Illinois that will be discussed as well. What is the High Dose Flu Shot?

Our immune system is responsible for fighting external pathogens/germs and preventing diseases and infections. The immune system gets weaker as we age. To account for this, two variations of the flu shot are available.

One is aimed at the normal population, which ranges from teens to middle-aged individuals.  The other is a high dose flu shot designed for elderly individuals and those with complications, to give them a stronger defense against the flu virus.

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How Bad Is The Situation?

This high dose, stronger flu shot is in reduced supply and people all over Illinois are scrambling to find it for themselves and their relatives.

Stephen, a 77-year-old resident of Urbana, complained that when he inquired about the availability of the flu shot at his doctor’s office, he was told the office was off. As a consequence, he had to get his shot from the local CVS store, which is quite inconvenient.

Most pharmacy stores around the state did not have high dose of flu vaccines available when contacted. One possible cause for this sudden shortage is that stores bought out large supplies of flu vaccines as soon as the pandemic began, and as a result, there is a shortage at this stage.

This is not an isolated incident, however, since costs for healthcare in Illinois have been rising for a long time now.

Cost of Treatment is Rising Constantly

Rates of treatment and healthcare-associated costs have been rising through the years and this is a cause for greater concern. People are afraid they might not be able to afford major treatments at all in the coming years.

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One positive piece of news is that almost half of the residents of Illinois have health insurance that is provided by their employers. Additionally, almost 30 percent of residents get insurance through either Medicaid or Medicare plans. So a large chunk of the Illinois population can get basic healthcare.

However, the costs of medicine and prescription drugs have been rising exponentially.  The cost of operating nursing homes and providing elderly care is also becoming increasingly difficult to afford.

Alternatives are Popping Up

To help establish better healthcare in Illinois and prevent a possible catastrophe, such as the recent shortage of high dose flu shots, from repeating, some prominent recent alternatives have sprouted up to fill the gap.

As we covered earlier, Walmart healthcare supercenters have appeared in different parts of Illinois based on the care clinic concept. Having proved to be sufficiently successful in other states where they opened, suggests they might be a good alternative to healthcare in Illinois.

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Similarly, a large number of startups have recently opened in Illinois that are helping improve the quality of healthcare in the state. BuiltinChicago enlists 25 such startups which have made a positive impact. 

A Divide Worsens The Flu Shortage For Some

There is a major downside to healthcare in Illinois, however. The situation is not necessarily unique to Illinois; it is present to some degree throughout the country. The problem is the medical divide between different portions of the population.

Healthcare is good in the state, but it is much better for some privileged portions of the population. As we covered here, Black and Latino communities are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 in Chicago when compared to predominantly white communities. Moreover, the mortality rates of those communities are also visibly higher.

The reasons for this discrepancy include wealth and educational gaps, access to healthcare, and different standards of living. All these factors make it difficult for certain demographics to avail themselves of the flu shot.

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However, despite the shortage of flu serum, it must be noted that overall, hospitals in Illinois usually have high standards and value.

For example, we stated in an earlier article, seven Illinois hospitals got the esteemed Leapfrog Award in 2018. Five had also received it in 2017. These awards are based upon the quality of healthcare provided by hospitals. The metrics include quality, efficiency, patient safety, and other important areas of care. 

Illinois’s Health Ranking

Illinois was ranked 30th according to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings, which shows that the healthcare in Illinois is definitely not top of the line. However, the rates of disease prevalence and mortality rates in several diseases have been decreasing, which is a positive sign of progress.

Many improvements can be made to the Illinois health system, and overcoming the flu shot shortage would be a good step in the right direction.


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