11/15/09 — Sticking it to swine flu

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Sticking it to swine flu

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 15, 2009 1:50 AM

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Jennifer Britt holds her 6-year-old son, Christopher, as his arm is prepared for the H1N1 vaccine Saturday at the Wayne County Health Department in Goldsboro.

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A line for the H1N1 vaccine stretches through the Wayne County Health Department parking lot Saturday morning.

Her 4-year-old daughter, Martina, sleeping in her arms, Marilyn Cruz slowly made her way across the Wayne County Health Department parking lot early Saturday morning.

The mother was one of nearly 800 local residents who, by 11 a.m., had been triaged by Health Department officials at the first H1N1 clinic offered in the county.

"I am going to go ahead and get the shot, but I am more worried about her," Ms. Cruz said. "I heard (H1N1) is going around the schools."

Nearly every demographic was represented at the facility along Ash Street Saturday -- children, the elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions and healthy young adults.

Bob Sellers came with his wife, after reading that people with diabetes should be among the first vaccinated.

"She's been diabetic for 10 years," he said, looking at his wife, Debbie. "So we thought we should come down."

"It's just the flu. People have just gotten panicked this year, that's all," she replied. "But, better to be safe than sorry I reckon."

Roughly 1,800 vaccinations -- both in the shot and mist form -- were available at the weekend clinic, with most who turned out opting for the shot, Health Director Jim Roosen said.

The goal of the clinic was simple, Director of Nursing Evelyn Coley added.

"To get the vaccine to them early so they won't get H1N1," she said.

But Roosen had another goal, too.

"This is good training for our staff. This will help us with understanding how to mass vaccinate in an emergency situation," he said. "Then again, this is pretty close to an emergency situation."

More than 22 million Americans have been sickened by H1N1 since April and nearly 4,000 -- including 540 children -- have died from the illness, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those figures were not lost on those who showed up Saturday for a vaccination.

"This thing is killing people," said 28-year-old Kyle Tyndall. "I know the regular flu does, too, but getting the shot, it's definitely for peace of mind."

Residents who were unable to attend this weekend's clinic will still have an opportunity to get vaccinated, Roosen said.

In fact, more doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and some have already been distributed to local physicians and schools.

And the Health Department will continue to see people who call ahead to make appointments.

Those demographics seen as high-priority -- pregnant women, health care providers, children and the elderly -- will be seen first, but "we're not turning anyone away," Roosen said.

Ms. Cruz sees the policy as a good thing.

"I'm glad (Martina) will get one but everyone else should, too," she said. "If everyone gets a shot, Wayne County will be safe."