There have been at least four other deaths statewide and experts do not believe the flu has peaked yet in California. "There are more hospitalizations due to influenza type illnesses. There's more lab activity and there have been spot shortages," explained Dr. Marty Fenstersheib with the Santa Clara County Health Department.
Bay Area pharmacies and medical facilities are moving into high gear in anticipation of demand for flu vaccinations and they're just in time because the season's first flu death is likely to create high demand. Safeway said Thursday that it had just obtained 200,000 doses which it will make available at its pharmacies throughout the Bay Area.
A public flu shot event also got under way Thursday in Fremont. Washington Hospital in Fremont is holding clinics Thursday and Friday to meet demand as the flu inevitably engulfs the Bay Area. Doctors remind their patients who are parents not to forget about themselves. "If you get your kids vaccinated but don't get yourself vaccinated, you may get the flu and in fact, be out of work or not be able to take care of your kids or vice versa. So, it's important to close the loop," attending physician Kadeer Halimi said.
Even for those who heeded the vaccination warnings early, spot shortages have kept some people from getting their shots. San Jose resident Deborah Anderson's doctor suggested going to Washington Hospital's clinic. "I actually have an appointment later but I decided to come early because it takes two weeks to kick in. So before everything hits, I want to be ready so that my kids don't get it and I don't get it," she said.
As the flu can spread quickly at school or work, or among families, doctors also encourage everyone get vaccinated to eliminate the risk of spreading it. "I have one more daughter who needs to get it done, just hasn't had time, but she's going to go and get it," patient Aileen Gomes insisted. "Absolutely. It's how strongly I believe in it."
The vaccine is perishable and with early demand slow, it has been difficult for pharmacies and other health providers to know how much to order. A Walgreen's in Milpitas is temporarily out of flu vaccine while it waits for a new order. It took down banners out front promoting flu shots, although it left one small one by the road.
Safeway believes it's prepared with 200,000 doses. "There has been a concern, but Safeway has worked really hard to get more vaccines supplied, and we've been pretty successful,"safeway pharmacist Keith Taft said.
Safeway is charging $30 without insurance for flu shots and it can work with your insurance plan to reduce that cost. You also get a 20 percent discount on groceries. Flu shots are $10 in Fremont at Washington Hospital and its drop-in clinic runs until 6:00 p.m. Thursday and again Friday from 7 to 9 a.m.
Churches, schools take precautions against spreading flu
At the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, parishioners took communion from the same chalice at the height of flu season. The Dioceses of Oakland and San Francisco say priests have the option of not giving communion to avoid the potential spread of the flu.
"At the beginning of mass he said it was OK if we decided to abstain from taking the wine at mass. That it wasn't a sin, it wasn't anything to worry about," said San Francisco resident Megan Stifter.
"The impact hasn't been huge here in Oakland, yet," said Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint.
Oakland school officials say only Montera Middle School is showing signs of widespread flu. On Thursday, 25 percent more students were absent, but school officials are warning that a larger outbreak could happen quickly.
"Some procedures we can take if flu does begin to spread rapidly is moving desks apart. In very serious situations we can suspend field trips," said Flint.
Flu shots at Safeway
Vaccines are conveniently available at all Safeway Pharmacy locations during normal business hours, seven days a week, on a walk-in basis. No appointments are required and no prescription is necessary.
Flu shots at Washington Hospital Urgent Care
Vaccine will be available at Washington Urgent Care in Fremont, open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year. Appointments are not necessary and the Washington Urgent Care accepts most insurance plans.
ABC7's Alan Wang contributed to this report