Thousands get flu shots at one-day clinics

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Spot 1118n Rutland Flu Clinic Keck

(Host) About 8,000 Vermonters got flu shots today at one-day clinics across the state. Because of the shortage of vaccine, state health officials asked that only those at high risk for the flu attend Thursday’s clinics.

VPR’s Nina Keck spent some time at the Eagles Club in Rutland where hundreds of people waited for their chance to be immunized.

(Nurse) “Hello, you’re here for the flu vaccine?”

(Keck) Nurses armed with clipboards and forms met cars as they arrived.

(Nurse) “I’m going to give you a number and a form and this is the form that you read and sign and date.”

(Keck) Organizers say one man arrived at 4:30 in the morning. Three hours later, the parking lot was full. What with all the lines, cars, parking attendants and excitement, it felt a bit like a geriatric rock concert.

(Ron Cioffi) “It’s unbelievable. One never knows how many people are going to show up.”

(Keck) Ron Cioffi is executive director of the Rutland Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, the group running the clinic.

(Cioffi) “We do flu clinics of 300-400 people on a yearly basis, so we’ve got the system down. I mean, we can deal with 1,000 people getting shots. The hard part is this parking thing.”

(Keck) Because of the age and the fragile health of many of those attending the clinic, Cioffi said safety was a big concern. An ambulance was on hand in the parking lot; 40 volunteers were scattered inside and outside to provide assistance. And 350 chairs were set up in the gymnasium-like hall where the shots were given out.

(Teresa Comet) “It is so well organized. This is incredible.”

(Keck) Seventy-two-year old Teresa Comet, from Proctor, waited next to her husband. She said it was a relief to know they’d be vaccinated.

(Comet) “I was worried. He’s 92 years old and I thought, if I get sick who’s going to take care of him? So it’s a God’s blessing.”

(Keck) The couple’s daughter, Danielle Rose, said she’d been more worried about how long her parents would have to wait in line.

(Rose) “We pulled in and we went, Oh, dear! this morning, and we were backed up by the road.”

(Keck) But she says within 15 minutes they were parked and inside. And she says the volunteers and staff were very helpful in finding them seats and answering questions. Doris Donahue from North Clarendon also got to the clinic early, but joked that it wasn’t early enough.

(Donahue) “I’m thinking about going back home and taking my chances about catching the flu, but I’ll probably wait it out.” (Laughs)

(Keck) Organizers hoped to vaccinate about 150 people an hour. With 1,100 doses they expected to finish by mid afternoon. Across the state, about 8,000 Vermonters got flu shots today. Howard, a Rutland resident who asked that his last name not be used, had nothing but praise for how the Rutland clinic was organized. But he says he’s still angry with public health officials for allowing the vaccine shortage in the first place.

(Howard) “I’m 68 and a heart patient and I’m a diabetic on top of it. I thought, how could they foul this up so hugely? I mean, it was fouled up for the whole nation. Somebody better think twice about next year, that’s all I can say.”

(Keck) For those who were unable to get flu shots today, state Health Department officials expect more vaccine to be available in four to six weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

(Host) The state Health Department will now determine what to do with the remaining vaccines left over from Thursday’s clinics. For more information about flu shots call the Vermont Department of Health at (800) 695-0022 or the local visiting nurses office.

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