Students, staff and community members lined up outside the Lyon Center Tuesday and Wednesday to receive free H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines, though there was confusion over the availability of the vaccines.
USC was one of several makeshift vaccination clinics run by the Los Angeles County Health Department situated around the County. Though some students and faculty members visited the clinic to receive a flu shot, most visitors were members of the surrounding community, according to Dr. Lawrence Neinstein, director of the University Park Health Center.
“I think it’s a good thing for the campus, I think it’s a good thing for the community and I think it’s a good thing for the relationship between the campus and the community,” Neinstein said.
Because the vaccine supply was limited, vaccines were only administered to individuals who fell into set priority groups. Neinstein said most students fall into at least one of the groups, which include pregnant women, people living with or caring for infants under 6 months old, emergency medical services personnel and healthcare workers, children and young adults ages 6 months to 24 years old, and people 25 to 64 years old with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes or weakened immune systems.
Even with these limitations, the injectable seasonal flu vaccines — inactivated vaccines given with needles — were gone by 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and the center ran out of injectable seasonal flu vaccines again Wednesday.
“We knew there was going to be a limited supply and there is actually a limited supply all over the county,” said Tammie Akiyoshi, nursing director at USC.
The shortage prevented some individuals — pregnant women and those with chronic health issues — from being able to receive the seasonal flu vaccination. Healthy individuals could still get the seasonal flu nasal spray — a live virus sprayed into the nostril — but many did not because of fear of the nasal spray’s side effects or confusion about the situation.
Many visitors to the clinic were confused because some UPHC workers directing people at the door on Tuesday said all seasonal flu vaccinations would be unavailable until Wednesday.
“People are not used to [the nasal spray], they’re used to the injection and they fear the word ‘live’ because they are somehow concerned they’re going to get the flu,” Neinstein said. “There have been no serious side effects, and the nasal vaccine is very good for those between the ages of two and 50 who have no chronic illness.”
Despite the confusion about the seasonal vaccine, students who lined up for seasonal or H1N1 vaccines toward the end of the day Tuesday said that their waits were short, and the process was simple.
“I waited five minutes, It took me as long as it took to fill out the form,” said Robert Atchinson, a junior majoring in theatre (acting). “A lady said I looked lost, she asked me if I was under 24 and then told me to get in line.”
Some students said they were glad for the opportunity to get vaccinated for free.
“For the past month or so I’ve been checking the health center to see when they got [the vaccines] in,” said Kristin Jung, a junior majoring in human performance. “They seem to always run out.”
Although Neinstein said he was happy to see a large community turnout at the clinic, he said he wished there had been a greater turnout of students getting the H1N1 vaccine.
Neinstein said young adults are among those at highest risk have often experienced the most significant health issues in connection with the H1N1 virus, including hospitalization and death.
“If you look at some studies, only 40 percent of young adults intend to get the vaccine, so those highest risk are least interested in getting the vaccine,” Neinstein said. “Students should be getting the vaccine whenever and wherever they can.”
Neinstein said while UPHC has vaccinated about 600 students so far, they currently only have enough supplies to cover about 10 percent of all eligible students.
“We are hoping that more vaccine will be coming in the next two to six weeks,” Neinstein said.
Akiyoshi said students who missed the free vaccinations should check the UPHC as often as possible for $10 H1N1 vaccines and $25 seasonal flu vaccines.