Carroll County eases flu shot rules

More vaccine in stock

age 50 and older eligible

November 24, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A crowd of older Carroll County residents lined up yesterday morning for shots against influenza at the county Health Department in Westminster, as the arrival of more vaccine allowed officials to hold a second flu-shot clinic.

Enough vaccine remains that the age limit will be lowered from 65 to 50 for county residents at the next clinic, to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at the Health Department at 290 S. Center St., said Larry L. Leitch, Carroll's health officer.

"So we're loosening up a little bit and will give shots until we run out," he said.

The department's planned series of 10 clinics had to be canceled after a nationwide shortage of the vaccine caused by problems with contamination at the British plant of a major supplier, California-based Chiron Corp. Although Carroll had received its full order of about 7,500 doses for the year from a French manufacturer, Aventis Pasteur, Leitch said, the shortage caused the state to call in doses from Carroll and other area health departments for possible redistribution to those that had none.

About 3,800 doses were returned by the state after some other Maryland departments eventually received a supply from Aventis, Leitch said.

Yesterday, the clinic administered had 1,871 shots when it closed at 4 p.m., Leitch said.

The two clinics that have been held were limited to high-risk residents of Carroll: people age 65 and older, children from 6 months to 23 months old; those ages 2 to 64 years old with chronic medical conditions; pregnant women; children age 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy; and health care workers in direct patient care.

The flu shot costs $15 for those not eligible for Medicare Part B. Medicare will be billed for Medicare Part B participants who present their Medicare card and are not enrolled in a Medicare HMO.

"Everything's going very well," Leitch said yesterday. The lines were as long as they were for the first clinic, on Oct. 8, he said, with traffic backed up at South Center Street before the clinic opened at 8:15 a.m., about 15 minutes early.

"The first lady in line said she got here at 5:30 a.m.," he said.

Dr. Richard A. Jones was beaming - and full of praise for the nurses and staff who were assisting the disabled and elderly patients, including his 98-year-old mother, Alma Shipley Jones, one of Carroll's first school principals.

"I'd pay anything. She will not live through the winter if she gets the flu," said Jones, 75, a former military doctor and retired pathologist, who said he made dozens of calls trying to find a flu shot for her.

"If you send your parents to a nursing home, they get shots. If you take care of them yourselves, you're an outcast. They can't do anything for you," he said. "They called me," he said of the Carroll clinic, which let him know the vaccine was again available.

Leitch said that since the clinic was scheduled, "a lot of people have been calling in, asking questions, worried about waiting in line. If we get notified that someone needs help, we'll send a nurse with vaccines out and immunize them in their car, if necessary."

Leitch said most of those who came for shots yesterday were eligible.

A few Baltimore County residents tried to sneak through, said Patricia J. Barnett, a community health nurse at the door who checked those arriving for eligibility. There were jokes, as some people were flattered at being thought too young. Those who were younger than 65 needed a note from a doctor.

"I came too early," said Pat Mulligan, 77, of Union Mills, who arrived about 9 a.m. when there was still a line. "I was told there were even more people here at 6:30."

Mulligan usually gets a shot, he said, because "the Lord will take me when he wants me - but I'm going to do as much as I can."

Patricia Pumphrey, 57, of Finksburg arrived about 9:30 a.m. to find the line stretching around the building.

"Still, it was not too bad: 45 or 50 minutes in and out," said Pumphrey. "I expected it to be a lot worse."

Soon after 10 a.m., the line dropped to a handful of people, and Barnett told a woman who arrived with a folding chair, "You don't need your chair. You can walk right in."

"It went much, much better than we all expected," Leitch said at the end of the day. "Everybody was in such a good mood coming through."

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