10/15/04 — Long lines, long wait for flu shots

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Long lines, long wait for flu shots

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 15, 2004 2:01 PM

Shirley Smith of Goldsboro said she had waited outside Southeast Family Pharmacy since 10 a.m. Thursday for a flu shot. It was 2:30 p.m. before she got one.

That's nothing, chimed in Mildred Carpenter.

"One man arrived at 9 a.m.," she said as she hurriedly filled out an information sheet before her number was called.

About that time, Jerry Honn of Pikeville walked out of the pharmacy, having just received his shot.

"I'm relieved," he said.

Honn said he was first in line for one of the 500 flu shots offered at the clinic. Only those considered high-risk were eligible.

"I had to," he said. "I have got two terminal diseases. I can't afford not to get the shot."

Honn said he has been hospitalized eight times in the last two years with pneumonia. So when his doctors at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center referred him to the clinic, he jumped on it.

The shots were to be administered from 2 to 6 p.m. By the time the line started to move, the parking lot on N.C. 111 was overflowing and a stream of people wrapped around the building.

Julius Elliott Wynn of Wilson said, "This is bigger than a three-ring circus."

Wynn, who arrived at 10:30 a.m., when there were only about a dozen in line, said he typically gets the shot every year. At 89, he said, he has had "a whole lot of shots."

Still, he said, "It's amazing to have to stand in line to get a flu shot."

Wynn said he met some fine people while waiting in line and there was no grumbling.

"Some went off and got drinks and some got crackers," he said. "It was a picnic."

Well, maybe not a picnic. Pharmacist Jennifer Sutton said word-of-mouth brought people out in droves. She said fliers had been handed out to customers for the past month. But when the flu vaccine shortage was announced, the decision was made not to do any more advertising.

"Through a wholesaler, we had booked the flu clinic a couple months ago," she said.

Pharmacist Jennifer Byrd said calls about the clinic came in from such areas as Smithfield, Tarboro and Raleigh.

"One day, we kept up with the number of calls, and we had 167," she said. "It was like that every day for a week."

The flu shots were free to anyone with Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance and Medicare Part B; others paid $20 for the vaccination.

Numbers were handed out as people arrived, and by the time the doors opened to begin, everyone eligible had received one.

"Once everybody got a number, there was a sense of relief," Ms. Sutton said.

Ms. Byrd said the crowd was as patient and tolerant as could be expected under the circumstances.

"Some people felt like some were ahead of them," she said. "Others didn't understand why they had to wait."

This morning, Ms. Sutton said everyone who stood in line and received a number was accommodated. She thanked the pharmacy's customers for being patient and expressed appreciation for those who responded to the need for volunteers, staying to help during the afternoon.

"It's our hope next year that we can do something for our customers so that they don't have to wait as long," she said.