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Last Flu Shot Offer Draws Big Turnout

By ZELDA BRONSTEIN Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 16, 2003

Alarmed by news that American manufacturers have run out of flu vaccine, people showed up starting at 5 a.m. Saturday for the flu shot clinic at Longs Drug Store at 5100 Broadway in Oakland. 

Co-sponsored by Longs and by Sutter VNA & Health, Saturday’s clinic was officially open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and had 680 doses of vaccine available.  

When a reporter arrived at 10 a.m., several hundred people were already standing in line outside the store waiting to sign up and receive a numbered slip. It took about an hour to get to the front of the number line and another hour to get a shot. 

Standing in the check-in queue, Matt Garber, an engineer who lives in Oakland, said he was there because his doctor had run out of the vaccine. Pamela Lindsey, also from Oakland, had gotten to Kaiser on Friday “thirty minutes after they ran out.” Jorge Maezono of Berkeley had gone to the Over Sixty Health Center in Berkeley, where he was told to go to Longs before 10 a.m. Saturday morning.  

“We thought maybe a thousand people would show up,” said Longs store manager Gerry Otto. By noon, Otto had checked in 550 people, and the line had dwindled to a handful. 

By mid-afternoon, all 680 doses of the vaccine had been administered. 

Some parents were disappointed to find that children aged 9-13 could get shots only if their parents brought in a signed note from their doctor, and that no shots were available to anyone under the age of 9. 

Thanks to good organization by the Longs staff, who called out numbers in batches of 20 over the store’s public address system, people could wander about after receiving a slip. Inside, four Sutter nurses and other personnel dispensed advice and vaccine with patience, efficiency and good humor. This will be the last flu shot clinic at Longs until next fall.  

A “Vaccination Information Statement” distributed at the clinic and prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said protection from the flu develops about two weeks after getting the shot and may last up to a year. “Influenza vaccine is expected to be plentiful in 2003, so no one should have to wait to get the shot.” 

The flyer is dated May 6, 2003.  

“The Alameda County Public Health Department is making every effort to secure as much additional vaccine as possible,” said Sherri Willis, the agency’s Public Information Officer. “We are hoping to get 400 additional doses from the State of California Health Department.” 

That vaccine, Willis said, will be provided only to high-risk populations—people over 60 with chronic illnesses and children, assuming that pediatric vaccine is available. She emphasized that so far most of this season’s flu cases in California have occurred in the Central Valley.  

For more information, call the Alameda County’s Immunization Assistance Project, 267-3230, the County Health Department’s main number, 267-8000, or go to