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Driving Home the Point on Flu Prevention

Health: With a bad year for the bug predicted, nearly 100 motor in to take advantage of hospital's parking-lot shot.

November 10, 1996|J.R. MOEHRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Nearly 100 people took part in a drive-by shooting Saturday, and it didn't hurt a bit.

Outside Coastal Communities Hospital, on South Bristol Street, several nurses took part in the ultimate California experience: drive-through flu shots.

"It's so California," said Valerie Hardman, of Costa Mesa, who drove to the hospital with Don Gibson around lunchtime. "It's so Orange County."

"I'm surprised they don't have a cafe latte machine set up," Gibson said, half-kidding.

In fact, the operation was very makeshift and very temporary: For a few hours, the nurses stood behind a couple of old card tables, injecting motorists through rolled-down windows.

Many said the quickness and simpleness of the process--with no lines, and barely time to turn off the car--eliminated the anxiety of being injected.

On the other hand, not everyone behaved bravely.

"I thought it was going to be one of those air guns . . . " Gibson said, his face turning a shade whiter.

The hospital's flu-shot program, expected to become a yearly event, cost $5 for people 65 and younger, but seniors were able to get shots for free.

People who wish they'd heard about the program can still go to the hospital's emergency room this week and get a shot.

Which they definitely should, hospital officials said.

"The flu season this year is supposed to be extremely bad," said Lisa Wilson, a hospital spokeswoman.

Influenza season typically lasts from November to April in the United States. Symptoms include chills, cough, fever and soreness, and most often last for days.

Thousands of people, however, die each year from the flu or flu-related illnesses.

Indeed, fear of this year's flu brought Lupe Hinojosa and her whole family to the hospital, all packed in one car, all willingly rolling up their sleeves.

"The good thing about this is my mother had a stroke, so it would be hard for her to go in and out of the hospital," Hinojosa said, sitting in the front seat beside her mother, Marcelina Hernandez, her sister, Angie Salgada, in the backseat.

All three looked away as the nurses descended with outstretched needles.

*

"I've seen a lot of people sick already this year," Hinojosa said, rubbing her arm good-naturedly where the needle went in.

Mike Asher, 28, exposed his biceps and admitted that this would be his first-ever flu shot. In years past, he's taken a cavalier attitude about getting sick. This year, he didn't want to leave anything to chance.

Besides, one of the nurses was a friend, and she nagged relentlessly about getting the shot.

"It's about 70% effective, they say," he told his nurse friend. "Isn't that what they say?"

She looked at him and smiled, saying nothing, which made him suspicious. He pressed her, and sure enough, he found that she hadn't gotten her shot this year.

And not because she was lazy. Despite the fact that doctors say it's impossible, she feared the shot would make her sick.

"Hey!" he said, raising his voice. "Take this stuff out of me!"

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