County citizens receive H1N1 vaccinations

At the Sports Blast on U.S. 280, nurses at tables formed a line across an indoor soccer field, waiting to give the H1N1 vaccines to anyone who asked.

At 11 a.m. today, nurses had given about 200 of the 2,000 available free vaccines for Shelby County. However, the rush will likely come later in the afternoon, said Alabama Department of Public Health local administrator Mark Johnson.

“We expect the afternoon to be busier because of school-aged children,” he said. “We’ve seen probably more pregnant women and children so far. We would hope people would follow the target group expectations, but we will not turn anyone away.”

The Department of Public Health is targeting pregnant women, children between 6 months and 4 years old, parents, caregivers and siblings of children less than 6 months old, children between 5 and 18 years old who have underlying medical conditions and health care workers.

Johnson said he considers the vaccine important because it can help prevent even more people from getting sick, especially in at-risk groups.

“A two-second prick is better than five days in bed,” he said.

State Health Officer Donald Williamson stopped by the Sports Blast to check in on the vaccination clinic and speak with workers. Williamson said he had already visited clinics in Montgomery and Clanton, both of which were busy but not overwhelmed with patients, and planned to travel to visit more.

“I think the number one general comment I’m getting is that people are glad they can actually get the vaccines. Many wanted to get them from their physician, but the physician didn’t have them available,” he said. “The other is that people were happy they wouldn’t have to wait hours to get vaccinated.”

Rachel Gallups, who was toting her 2-year-old daughter, said she thought it was important to get the vaccines to protect herself, her daughter and her unborn child.

“With me being pregnant and my daughter being in that age range, we were at the top of the list of people who needed the vaccine,” she said. “I work around a lot of people, and it just makes me nervous. You can only wash your hands so much.”

Williamson said he was optimistic that those who most need the vaccines, like Gallups, will be able to get them.

“I think it provides reassurance that the vaccine is out there, and (they) do have a way to get it,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, it’s really been the target population. So I’m cautiously optimistic the message about the target population got out.”