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Drive-Thru Clinic Attracts Hundreds Wanting Flu Shots

Health: Some wait three hours in their cars, but the 320 doses available don't go far enough. More vaccine is expected in next couple of weeks.


OXNARD — In typical Southern California fashion, hundreds of people lined up here Wednesday for flu shots--in their cars.

Listening to music or talk radio, they waited for hours before cruising up to a nurse, rolling up their sleeves and enduring a second of pain at a drive-thru flu clinic outside St. John's Regional Medical Center.

Some of the lucky 320 who got the shots were in line three hours. But most didn't mind waiting in the warm sun for the vaccine that might keep them well through the winter.

This week, the state sent the Ventura County Department of Public Health about 3,400 doses of the flu serum, which will go to four public health-care clinics. About 600 of those doses were sent to St. John's Regional Medical Center.

This year's long-awaited flu vaccine is dribbling into the county in spurts, alarming health officials who fear that the region's most vulnerable patients may have to forgo the serum.

By this time, the county should have received 21,000 doses of the vaccine, and only 14,000 have arrived, said Lin Glusac, immunization coordinator for the county's Public Health Department.

In the next couple of weeks, more vaccine is expected.

St. John's Medical Center has offered the drive-thru shots for five years, but almost double the number of people showed up this time. Many who would normally get the vaccine from their doctors joined the line of cars Wednesday.

Thomas D. Harvey, who drove his two siblings and his 86-year-old mother through the flu line, said he did not mind the wait of more than an hour. His mother uses a wheelchair, Harvey, 65, said, "and this makes it much more convenient."

The shots were available only to those considered high risk--people over 65 or with a chronic condition, such as asthma, diabetes or AIDS.

Tim Marvin, 46, was one of those unhappy about the wait, saying he should have been told about the long line. He came from Port Hueneme to get a shot for his father, John Marvin, who has heart disease. "I've lost a whole day's work here," the real estate financier fumed. "Next year, I'd rather drive to Beverly Hills and pay $100 than sit here."

The cost for patients with an HMO was $10.

A car full of nuns from Sister Servants of Mary in Newbury Park arrived about midmorning. Sister Iris M. Vega, 70, said she gets a flu shot each year. "I know God is on my side, but if I get the flu, I don't know what will happen," she said. "This shot is very important. I used to catch the flu every year."

As it neared noon and the serum began to run low, some at the end of the line were turned away. Others who had waited for about 45 minutes were told the amount of serum might not hold out.

That left many nonplused. "There is not enough to go around anywhere," said 65-year-old Nancy Hanson of Oxnard. "We all have to just be patient. I've waited this long; I might as well see what happens."


To get more information about flu clinics, call the Public Health Information Center at 652-5916.

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