First Sac County Swine Flu Clinic Turns Thousands Away

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 16, 2009
It wasn’t exactly a typical day for students at Hiram Johnson High School Monday.  They had a lot more guests on campus then they’re used to.  Thousands of them.
Clinic Official: “If you don’t have a ticket, you’re not getting through this gate!”
And a lot of people never did. It was a remarkable scene Monday afternoon, with a long line twisting around a couple of buildings and the entire football field before bending out into the school’s parking lot. Annalissa Merino of Sacramento was among the first in line. She got there around 9:15am.
Merino: “Because you never know if they’re gonna run out. I heard there’s at least 4,000 people here right now, and I know that at least half of them are gonna get turned away. They can’t do all these people in four hours, there’s no way. I was lucky to actually be able to be here. A lot of people don’t have the option.”
Merino is pregnant – that’s one of the high-risk groups of people who are allowed to be vaccinated. A lot of providers don’t have any vaccines available yet because of delays in production. But Merino’s doctor was adamant about her getting the shot. So what’d she do for the six-plus hours she spent in line?
Merino: “Talk to new people, make new friends, read a book.”
Clinic Official: “I’m so sorry that we ran out of vaccines …”
Not everyone was so lucky. Officials had to turn people away even before the doors opened. Tonia Nichols of Wilton was there with her two daughters, both of whom have asthma. She stubbornly but hopefully stayed in line.
Nichols: “I’m trying to be optimistic, hoping that as they get more people up there, they won’t be eligible and they’ll eliminate them and there will be extra shots. So we’ll see."
Ben: “So you’re not going home, even though at this point, they’ve told you that you probably won’t get vaccine.”
Nichols: “I don’t know, I was looking at the schedule and I’m trying to figure out if we can get in line someplace else another day earlier – much earlier.”
So what should you do if you can’t get the vaccine right away? Here’s Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet:
Trochet: “Before we had the vaccine, we were still telling people that they could still protect themselves from the flu by washing your hands frequently, staying home while you’re sick, insisting that people who are coughing and sneezing cover their mouth and nose when they cough with a tissue. That’s still very good prevention. Those who can’t get the vaccine today can get it the next day or the next day or the next day.”
Trochet also suggests checking with your doctor or insurance company to see if they’ve got any available shots.
Sacramento County clinics from now through Thanksgiving are open only to those in the “high-risk” groups, like pregnant women, health care workers, and children and young adults, among others. Clinics after Thanksgiving are open to the general public – as long as you’re a county resident.