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As flu rages, the US releases the medication Tamiflu from its national stockpile

Part of Nebraska's 2009 stockpile of the anti-viral medicine, Tamiflu.
The Biden administration is not releasing how many doses of Tamiflu will be made available as flu cases spike this winter. In this file photo, Tamiflu from the national stockpile was also made available in 2010-11 during as the H1N1 flu spread.

States will be able to request doses of the prescription flu medication Tamiflu kept in the Strategic National Stockpile. The Biden administration is not releasing how many doses will be made available.

The Biden administration said Wednesday it will release doses of prescription flu medicine from the Strategic National Stockpile to states as flu-sickened patients continue to flock to hospitals and doctors' offices around the country.

This year's flu season has hit hard and early. Some people are even noticing bare shelves at pharmacies and grocery stores when they make a run for over-the-counter medicines as cases have spiked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the flu has resulted in 150,000 hospitalizations and 9,300 deaths so far this season.

“Jurisdictions will be able to get the support they need to keep Americans healthy as flu cases rise this winter,” Dawn O’Connell, an assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Health and Human Services Department, which oversees the CDC, said in a statement.

States will be able to request doses of the prescription flu medication Tamiflu kept in the Strategic National Stockpile from HHS. The administration is not releasing how many doses will be made available. Antiviral medications were released from the stockpile more than a decade ago during the H1N1, also known as swine flu, pandemic.

Last week, the federal agency also announced it would allow states to dip into statewide stockpiles for Tamiflu, making millions of treatment courses available. Tamiflu can be prescribed to treat flu in people over the age of 2 weeks old.

This flu season is coming on the heels of a nasty spike of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, cases in children and just as COVID-19 cases are climbing — again.

Spot shortages of over-the-counter pain relievers and medicines have been reported at stores around the country, particularly for children.

The shortages have forced medical facilities such as Orlando's Nemours Children’s Hospital to find appropriate substitutions children’s for Tamiflu, amoxicillin, Augmentin and albuterol.

Nemours Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Podberesky calls the shortages “a moving target with no end in sight.”

For now, Podberesky says medical teams at Nemours are working to source new manufacturers of these drugs, while optimizing the supply on hand.

The Food and Drug Administration has not reported a shortage of Tamiflu. However, the federal agency says the prescription antibiotic amoxicillin is in short supply due to increased demand.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf hosted conversations Tuesday with leaders representing pharmaceutical companies to discuss how manufacturers are working to keep in-demand remedies available.

The companies told the agencies that they are not seeing widespread shortages. Meanwhile, major drug makers like Johnson & Johnson and Perrigo report their production lines are running around the clock.

Pharmacies are limiting purchases of certain medicines. CVS Health, for example, has placed a two-product limit on all children’s pain relief products bought through its pharmacies or online. Walgreens is limiting customers online to six purchases of children’s over-the-counter fever reducing products.

WMFE's Danielle Prieur contributed to this report.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.