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Cold and flu medication out of stock at several local pharmacies as flu cases increase

Nearly 70% of the nation is facing high or very high levels of influenza, according to the CDC. This is causing more residents on the Central Coast to seek medication to treat respiratory illnesses.
Posted at 6:08 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 22:51:47-05

Nearly 70% of the nation is facing high or very high levels of influenza, according to the CDC. The agency estimates there have been at least 6.2 million flu cases so far this season.

“I know a lot of people who have been sick for all quarter, and it hasn’t been COVID but not necessarily a flu either. It’s been like a weird sickness that they’ve had for several weeks,” said Cal Poly student Cailin Lorek.

This is causing more residents on the Central Coast to seek medication to treat respiratory illnesses. Now, several local pharmacies are running out of that medicine.

“Sometimes you just can’t find it on the shelf, what you’re looking for,” said Shelly Sinderson, San Luis Obispo resident. 

At Los Osos Rexall Drug, the trend is no different.

“You see a couple holes in my shelf — I’m out of some of the cough suppressant, a lot of the Robitussin cough syrups,” explained Jason Tewell, head pharmacist and owner of Los Osos Rexall Drug.

The CDC’s report for the week ending on Nov. 19, 2022, shows that at least 34 states are showing a high to very high level of influenza transmission.

A report from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) between Nov. 6, 2022 and Nov. 12, 2022, shows that 11% of the flu tests done at labs came back positive. The week before, it was an 8% positivity rate.

In that report, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties are in the moderate transmission level.

“We’ve seen an increase in prescriptions coming in from the urgent care, the Med Stops, even from some of the emergency rooms here at the hospitals in town, so there definitely seems to be a little influx in the last week or two,” Tewell said.

Antibiotics are among the top requests.

“We are in a good place, but we are definitely out of the Amoxicillin now that we’ve seen that influx of prescriptions,” Tewell added. “They’ve given us some guidance of using tablets and capsules in place of, or we’re just using other antibiotics.”

CDPH is urging eligible patients to get their flu vaccine in addition to following prevention tips such as washing hands and wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.

“We’ve seen people kind of rebound — [they] are down for a week or two and then it will come back another week,” Tewell said. “We tell people to hang in there and drink lots of water.”

The San Luis Obispo Public Health Department is hosting four more pop-up vaccine clinics around San Luis Obispo County to help protect residents from the flu and COVID-19.

Pop-up clinics offer extended hours, and no appointments are needed.

There are no requirements related to residency, income, insurance, or immigration status.

The remaining 2022 pop-up vaccine clinics include:

  • 12/1 | Morro Bay Public Health Clinic
  • ​Thursday, December 1, 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • 760 Morro Bay Blvd.
  • Updated COVID-19 boosters and flu shots for ages 5+, plus primary series for ages 5+
  • 12/2 | San Luis Obispo – UCCE Auditorium (behind the Public Health Department)
  • Friday, December 2, 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • 2156 Sierra Way, Suite C
  • Updated COVID-19 boosters and flu shots for ages 5+, plus primary series for ages 5+
  • 12/6 | Cambria – Santa Rosa Catholic Church
  • Tuesday, December 6, 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.
  • 1174 Main Street
  • Updated COVID-19 boosters and flu shots for ages 5+, plus primary series for ages 5+