BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Centers for Disease Control has determined that the flu has reached epidemic levels, and Mississippi has been hit especially hard. Those who don't have insurance or can't afford the vaccination have little chance to fight the disease. But Polk's Drugs in Biloxi is overstocked and giving away its remaining supply.
For Paul Stanley of Ocean Springs, who is uninsured, the offer made the difference between taking the shot and taking a risk.
"I've been laid off for a while and I don't really have the money to spend on it," Stanley said. "My daughter comes in here all the time, so I was really happy to have that happen here."
Pharmacist Joe Flynt said the reason there is more supply is because there is less demand, which, he believes, has helped create the epidemic we're seeing now.
"Because people get their flu shots, you don't get the big epidemic like it is this year," he said. "I think from year to year, people think to themselves, 'Well I went a couple of years and I didn't get it.' ... Or, 'It wasn't so bad last year, so I'll just pass on it this year.'"
Dr. Randy Roth, chief medical officer with Singing River Health System, said a missed mutation in this season's vaccination has led to an increased number of cases, but he also agrees there is a public apathy.
"I think we probably had a lower ... percentage of people get their flu shots this year," he said. "We had a late winter, that may have contributed some. But another thing is our population is aging on the Coast. You have an older patient population."
But he still recommends the flu shot, even with its reduced effectiveness.
"Even if it's 70 or 80 percent effective, it's better than zero percent effective."
Roth added that there are treatments for those who have the flu including anti-viral drugs that, if taken immediately, can reduce the course of the flu by two to three days.