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Hundreds line up for flu shots at market

October 16, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - More than 200 people - some coming prepared with lawn chairs for a long wait - showed up Friday at Martin's Food Market on Dual Highway in hopes of getting a flu shot.

Betty McNairn, 63, and her husband Leonard McNairn, 64, arrived at 7:30 a.m. By 11:30 a.m., the Maugansville couple still were waiting, and the line still was more than 100 people deep.

Maxim Healthcare Services of Columbia, Md., administered the flu vaccines and issued 250 flu-shot tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Three nurses started giving shots to eligible patients at 9 a.m. and it took about three minutes to administer each shot.

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"We were way over on the dog food aisle," said Betty McNairn, who was holding ticket No. 239, while her husband had ticket No. 240.

Getting a flu shot is important for Leonard McNairn, a transplant patient whose immune system is weak. He said the flu could threaten his organs and send him to the hospital.

Shoppers maneuvered around flu shot customers filling several aisles. Some came in wheelchairs and others brought lawn chairs from home.

The response to Friday's vaccine clinic may have resulted from Tuesday's announcement of a nationwide flu vaccine shortage.

Chiron Corporation, a U.S.-based biotech manufacturer of the flu vaccine Fluvirin, temporarily stopped production after the British government suspended the company's license to produce the vaccine at its Liverpool facility, according to the company's Web site at www.chiron.com. The company is one of only two major suppliers of seasonal flu vaccine to the U.S. market.

The suspension prompted a shortage many area residents said they simply don't understand.

"We (the United States) can produce everything else, why can't we produce the flu vaccine," Betty McNairn said.

A few feet away, sitting in lawn chairs in the snack aisle, Harry Crowl, 83, of Boonsboro asked the same question as his wife completed her paperwork using the back of a pretzel box to write on.

"I don't understand why our doctors can't have the vaccine so they can give it to us like they've always done," said Crowl, who arrived at 7:30 a.m. with his wife Doris, 81. "Something is not right,"

Maxim spokesman Ryan Wynne said due to the vaccine shortage, high-risk patients were given first priority. High-risk patients are those considered vulnerable to influenza complications. But even with such exceptions, the McNairns said finding a place with available flu vaccine wasn't easy.

"Even his doctor doesn't have (flu vaccine) and the transplant clinic in Baltimore isn't sure if they're going to get it," Betty McNairn said.

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