Area residents lined up at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center last Thursday for their dose of the H1N1 vaccine. The vaccine was free to anyone who met the priority group criteria and was willing to wait in line.
In order to qualify, people were required to either work at a doctor’s office or a hospital, be pregnant, a caretaker, work with children or be under the age of 18.
“We’re really focusing on the younger set,” said Washtenaw County Public Health information officer Susan Cerniglia. “With H1N1, we’re not seeing as much of it in the older group. But we’re working to open it back up to everyone since it’s recommended for everyone.”
In order to expedite the process, there was a set system in place to move people through as quickly as possible.
“We have a screening table set up outside to screen for the high priority groups,” Cerniglia said. “We make sure everyone feels well. If they’re ill, we have a waiting room for them so they’re away from healthy people waiting in line.”
For those who qualified, next came the waiting, which the organizers covered as well.
“We have four two-hour time blocks to reduce wait time,” Cerniglia said.
This plan was put to use by distributing color-coded wristbands. If the line was too long at one point in the day, people were given a wristband corresponding to a different time block and told to return later, when the line was expected to be shorter.
As people waited in line, workers at the clinic held up signs with examples of how to fill out forms. Others distributed clip boards so there wouldn’t be any additional time needed to fill out information. Next came an additional medical screening to insure that people were healthy enough to get the vaccine. Then, finally, the shot could be administered.
“At every table, we have two shooters,” Cerniglia said. “They’re either paramedics, nurses or contractors.”
Finally, after receiving their injections, patients were asked to wait 10 minutes before leaving to make sure they didn’t have any reaction to the vaccine.
The line on Thursday was full of parents with their children trying to keep their families healthy.
“I’m here to get her vaccinated,” mother Kathryn Loomis said. “This is the place to do it since she fits in the priority group. We need to avoid her getting sick, and we’ve only been in line about 45 minutes. It’s moved quickly.”
Others came out alone to take part in the program, which had supplies to vaccinate up to 4,000 people.
“I’m just making sure I don’t get sick,” Jake Haddad said. “I’m trying to stay healthy.”
Some came out with several family members, taking precautions.
“I’m here because of my big belly,” mother-to-be Courtney Mandich said. “And we’re here because of my son’s age.”
Mandich’s mom accompanied her not only for the sake of her pregnant daughter and grandson, but her husband as well.
“I’m trying to keep safe,” she said. “I take care of my husband, and he’s a kidney transplant patient. I can’t afford to get sick.”