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Free swine flu-vaccine clinic draws orderly masses to Arena

County health officials vaccinated about 2,100 people against the swine flu Saturday as thousands of people lined up outside the Spokane Arena to fend off the aggressive virus that is sickening people across the county.

Health officials had about 4,000 doses on hand and held the mass vaccination clinic in an effort to reach the region’s most vulnerable: pregnant women and young people with underlying health conditions.

Lines began forming outside the Arena before dawn Saturday. Pregnant women and anxious fathers, little kids bundled in fleece and grandparents holding spots for their families stood patiently in the orderly event.

Colin Charbonneau brought his toddler, Lucas, to the clinic along with his pregnant wife.

“We have to protect each other,” he said. “I’m absolutely impressed with how this has all come together.”

Spokane Regional Health District employees, police, emergency workers and students from the Washington State University College of Pharmacy, local nursing schools and other volunteers helped the keep the long lines moving at a steady clip.

The Arena served as an efficient venue, with plenty of free parking, restrooms and space for the people seeking vaccinations. There was little crowding, even though lines initially stretched several blocks.

The shot form of the vaccine – for pregnant women and children ages 6 months to 2 years – ran out within two hours of the doors opening.

Yet by 2 p.m., as the clinic closed, there were about 2,000 doses of the nasal mist left, said Julie Graham, health district spokeswoman.

The leftover doses will be refrigerated and shipped to area health care providers or stockpiled until the next big public clinic, Nov. 7 at the Spokane Valley YMCA.

Jim Jenson didn’t want his grandsons to wait. He rose early and held spots in line for 5-year-old Tate, who has asthma, and 1-year-old Luca. The boys’ mother, Gina Garcia, said the clinic turned out to be an easy way to get her boys vaccinated.

Luke and Anna Fridenmaker brought four of their children to the clinic, and each was inoculated. Their newborn twin boys stayed with their grandparents.

“The health district folks just did an excellent job,” said Luke Fridenmaker, a health care worker at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Dr. Joel McCullough called the clinic a success but noted thousands of Spokane County residents remain at risk for serious illness without the vaccine.

Even if people think they have already had the swine flu, they should be vaccinated, he said.

“There’s lots of other viruses circulating in the community so they might have had something else,” McCullough said.

Health officials view clinics as the best way to distribute limited supplies of the vaccine. Spokane was supposed to have about 58,000 doses by last week, but slower-than-expected production across the country meant Spokane only received a fraction of that – about 13,000 doses.

A few thousand of those were shipped directly to regional hospitals, which began inoculating employees this week. Hospital officials also put some in reserve for high-risk patients.


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