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First public flu clinic held

September 19, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- When Jeannette DiFabio arrived at North Hagerstown High School Saturday morning, she had no idea getting a flu shot would be so easy.

She rolled in, rolled up and rolled out.

"I wanted to ask if I got fries with that," the Hagerstown resident joked.

DiFabio, who is disabled, received a vaccination without leaving her car -- a convenient option for the thousands of people who took advantage of the Washington County Health Department's first public flu clinic of the season.

In addition to North High, clinics were offered at three other sites -- South Hagerstown, Boonsboro and Clear Spring high schools.

The clinics were open to adults 18 years of age and older. If participants didn't have Medicare to cover the cost, they paid a $20 fee, said Rod MacRae, spokesman for the health department.

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MacRae said people began arriving well before the 9 a.m. start time and the long line that snaked its way around North High was not a surprise to officials.

"There has been quite a lot of interest in getting flu shots this year and a lot of discussion on the importance of getting vaccinated," he said.

MacRae estimated the health department would administer about 4,000 shots.

Saturday's program was designed to simulate a pandemic flu outbreak to determine how long it would take to administer as many shots as possible, MacRae said. A similar drill was held last year.

"We're trying to refine our ability to respond," he said. "There may be some factors involved that would be beyond our control. But we do know we could vaccinate a large number of people."

MacRae said Saturday's clinic was for seasonal influenza, not H1N1, or swine flu.

"We are hoping to begin swine flu vaccinations sometime in mid- to late-October," he said. "At this point, we're not sure exactly. We also don't know how much of the vaccine we'll receive. That will be determined by the state Health Department."

Meanwhile, MacRae said local health officials have been encouraging everyone to receive their seasonal influenza shots.

"It's especially important for the most vulnerable," he said, including very young children and the elderly.

"Even if you are not adversely affected by the flu, you could give it someone who would be," MacRae said. "This is an important way to control outbreaks."

Billie Boyer of Smithsburg said she has been getting flu shots for the past 10 years through health department clinics.

"The health department has always done a fabulous job of organizing these clinics and getting people through very quickly," she said. "It's a very efficient operation."

Harry Vaserly of Hagerstown also praised the clinic organizers.

"They do a good job," he said. "Look how many people are here today. It could be a madhouse, but somehow, they keep it running smoothly. I'm impressed -- and thankful."

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