MOUNT VERNON — Knox County residents wasted no time this year in lining up for a seasonal flu shot. So many, in fact, that many residents were turned away Saturday morning at the drive- through clinic on the Knox County Fairgrounds.
Even with over 900 vaccinations on hand, the Knox County Health Department was forced to close around 11 a.m. — long before the 1 p.m. scheduled closing time.
“I think we turned away about 100 people,” said Pam Palm, public information officer for the Knox County Health Department. “We even had to turn away 50 to 75 people Monday morning at our office.”
Keith Vance, and his wife, were two of those people who left without the vaccine.
“We got there around 11 a.m. — our usual time, and there were about four or five cars waiting. They sent us all away,” Vance said. “We never got inside the gate.”
Vance said the couple liked to utilize the drive-through flu clinic because they never had to get out of the car.
“It was convenient for us senior citizens,” he said. “There were a lot of more young people there than usual.”
Palm explained that in the past, it was recommended that senior citizens and people with chronic health issues received the first initial doses but recommendations have changed over the years.
“Ten years ago, some vaccines were just for senior citizens but those guidelines have opened up for the general public,” Palm said.
Although the clinic was scheduled to open at 9 a.m., wheels started turning and shirt sleeves started rolling up throughout the fairgrounds around 8 a.m.
“The sheer volume of vehicles, along with the fact that all of our staff was in place, we thought it was best for everyone and for the sake of traffic to open early.”
At 8 a.m., Palm said there were 50 to 60 cars in the fairgrounds and another 50 to 60 snaked through the campground next door.
“We wanted to keep traffic off Ohio 3 for everyone’s safety,” she said.
For the next three hours, traffic was bumper-to-bumper until all 924 vaccines were administered.
“It was never as steady as it was this year. Normally, there is a rush in the beginning — a couple hundred in the first hour — then it trails off,” Palm said. “This was bumper to bumper the entire time.”
Vance told the News Thursday he and his wife have resigned themselves to the idea they won’t be getting a flu shot this year.
“There were a lot of people upset. We feel like we’ve been left out in the cold,” Vance said.
Palm said many local doctor’s offices have yet to receive their annual shipment, neither has Mid-Ohio Corporate Care which typically provides vaccinations for several local school districts and manufacturers.
“Because of this, people not typically utilizing our services turned to us for their vaccinations,” Palm said.
She did confirm the health department is scouring other avenues to acquire more vaccine and anticipates more will be available in November. Despite the wait, she urges residents to be patient and not lose hope.
“I know our older population likes to get their shots early but there is plenty of time. Don’t panic yet,” Palm said. “It only takes two weeks to build a robust immunity and peak flu season doesn’t get here until January or February.”
As far as H1N1 vaccines, Palm said 50,000 doses have been ordered and she feels that is an ample supply to vaccinate the residents in Knox County who want the treatment.