Los Angeles County public health officials today opened a free clinic at Encino's Balboa Sports Complex. It is the county's first such clinic to help combat the virus that has struck around the world. Around the country there are big delays in getting the H1N1 vaccine.
Hundreds of people started lining up before dawn for their shots.
Volunteers aren’t turning anyone away, but L.A. County’s chief public health officer, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, wants people on the priority list – adults with chronic diseases, caregivers, and children – to get first dibs.
“We are set to receive weekly shipments and we are not expecting lasting shortages," Fielding said. "The federal government has ordered more than 250 million doses to be manufactured. So, the only question is how quickly it’s gonna get here. But there will be sufficient vaccine.”
Fielding says there were nearly 40 new outbreaks in the county last week.
Most cases have been moderate, but he says that H1N1 has landed 400 people in L.A. County hospitals and has killed 60.
Fielding says the county doesn’t have enough of the vaccine to treat everybody who wants it.
“But the good news is it should be coming faster and faster," Fielding says. "That’s what we’re told by the federal government and the manufacturer. We expect that next week we’ll get more than we got this week and each week we’ll get more.”
Donna Caldwell and her husband Adam spent three hours in line waiting their turn.
They’re the parents of a toddler, and they’re expecting a second child. Donna Caldwell said she doesn’t completely trust the science, but she doesn’t want to risk getting sick.
“I don’t usually get flu vaccines in general, specially one that’s new," Donna Caldwell said. "The swine flu is fairly new. People don’t know exactly what the vaccine is gonna do. They haven’t had enough time to test it as they normally do.”
Pregnant women are also on the priority list. But public health officials are having a tough time convincing them to get the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine.
The vaccination clinic at Balboa Sports Complex is scheduled to remain open all weekend from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Other clinics are operating at L.A. County recreation centers in Woodland Hills and Granada Hills.
Free clinics are scheduled almost daily around L.A. County during the next couple of weeks.
Dates, times, and locations are available online at L.A. County's Web site.