H1N1 Flu Causes Congestion at Auditorium

Cindy Garcia

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health offered free H1N1 vaccines on Nov. 3 at the Glendale Civic Auditorium across the street from campus.

The vaccination center was open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

By 8 a.m., the outside of the Civic Auditorium was packed with people since quantities of the vaccine were limited to 2,500, as announced in the Public Health Web site.

“We only have certain amount of vaccines that the federal government has given us so we are trying to be fair,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, director of Public Health. “We’d love to be able to give it to everybody here but we can’t.”

Fielding said that as a consequence of the limited number of vaccines available, only those who qualified under the priority groups would be vaccinated.

The priority groups for the H1N1 vaccine are: pregnant women, people who take care of or live with infants under 6 months of age, young people from 6 months to 24 years, people from 25 to 64 who suffer from any health condition and health care and emergency services personnel.

People who did not fit in the priority groups were asked to wait for the vaccine to become available in pharmacies, to private health care providers and to community clinics.

“If you are 25 to 64 without underlying health problems or if you are 65 or older, and if you do not care for an infant under 6 months of age, you are not in a priority group for the limited H1N1 vaccine and you will be asked to defer vaccination until H1N1 vaccine becomes more widely available, ” said Fielding.

Many GCC students fall into the priority groups, like Jaqueline Talavera , 21, who expressed her concern about the H1N1 virus. “I want to be protected” she said “this virus has killed many people and I just don’t want to be one of them.”

Some people arrived at 5 a.m. to try and secure a vaccine for them and their families but the long waiting lines still prevented some from getting the vaccine.

For Nazeli Abrahamian, waiting in line for the vaccine was a frustrating experience. “This is a disaster,” she said. “We’ve been here since 5 a.m. and at 9:30 a.m. they let 200 pregnant women with their whole families go first and now they’re running out of vaccines.”

The vaccine was available in two versions: nasal spray and injection. The number of vaccines available was greater in the nasal spray version, called FluMist.

“We have more of the FluMist available,” said Fielding. “We have very small amounts of the injectable [vaccine], which pregnant women seem to prefer.”

The FluMist is not recommended for people with asthma, pregnant women or people with medical problems like heart disease and diabetes. It is only recommended for those 2 to 49 who are in a perfect health.

For Antonia Paredes, 61, waiting to get the vaccine was worth it, despite the thirst and the long line. “I’m really hot and thirsty but it’s worth it because I suffer from diabetes and I want to be protected,” she said.

Paredes also said that the Public Health Department staff seemed to be unorganized and that they should have provided at least water because many people who came to get the vaccine were people with health problems.

Not everyone had the same experience. Sarah Kling, 31, had better luck than others since she only waited 45 minutes in the special line for pregnant women, but she hoped to be in line even a shorter length of time.

“I was hoping that the pregnancy line would be much shorter,” she said “I knew the regular line would be really crazy but I was hopping to be here for maybe half an hour at the most.”

Lidia Martinez, 21, a GCC student who got the FluMist, was pleased after getting the vaccine, and said that she felt relief afterward. “I feel happy because I’m going home finally after four hours of waiting, ” she said. “I definitely feel more protected.”

For dates and location on available vaccination centers or more information call the Department of Public Heath, dial code 2-1-1 or visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.

People who plan to go to a Public Health H1N1 vaccination center are encouraged to review and complete the vaccination form available in the Web site. The vaccination form is available in different languages and should be taken to the vaccination center with them.