Thousands attend free H1N1 clinic in Monterey Park

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Patricia Nazario

Along the line, signs were posted in English, Spanish, and Korean. Some people waited as long as four hours to get the H1N1 vaccination.

Free H1N1 vaccine clinics across Los Angeles County are on the calendar through Thanksgiving, 2009, but thousands of people in Monterey Park aren't putting it off. The free clinic line stretched around Barnes Park on Thursday and took some people four hours to get inoculated.

Los Angeles County Public health officials have vaccinated tens of thousands of men, women, and children against the H1N1 virus since late October, 2009. Stephen Phong woke up before dawn today and waited four hours in line at Monterey Park's Barnes Park for his turn.

“It’s just as a precaution, basically," said Stephen Phong. "I’m in customer service. I’m always talking to people, 24/7, also handling phone calls, you know, touching everybody in my office. It’s safe to say my work would recommend that I get it."

The 22-year-old said getting the shot made him feel a little relieved. Adults younger than 25 years old are in the priority group, as well as small children and pregnant women. Natalie Avila and her 20-month-old daughter Ariel waited about a half hour.

"They have a special line for pregnant people and different people," said Avila.

Los Angeles County public health officials were confident they had enough vaccines on hand to go around at this clinic, so they didn't turn anyone away. But that's a decision public health officials reevaluate at every free clinic, depending on how many people line up.

“We’re doing a much more aggressive job about screening people early to hopefully minimize their waits," said Steve Teutsch, chief science officer of the L.A. County Public Health Department. "If they’re not eligible, they’ll hopefully know it as soon as possible.”

Not everybody in the priority group can get the H1N1 inoculation, because the anti-virus might trigger an adverse reactions in people with health problems, or children who've recently been vaccinated against chickenpox. Public health officials plan similar events across the county through Sunday, Nov. 15.

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