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H1N1 Clinic Vaccinates Over 1200 People

Health Department reports no problems in running of clinic.

The Westfield Regional Health Department vaccinated 1,251 people during the H1N1 vaccination clinic Tuesday night at the high school.

In contrast to a seasonal flu clinic in Garwood which was overrun with more individuals than vaccine with chaos occurring amongst those waiting in line, the clinic moved smoothly with waits of 45 minutes occurring in the most extreme cases. Health Officer Megan Avallone said the department succeeded in providing a smooth running clinic.

"To give that many vaccines in over an hour is phenomenal," Avallone said an hour into the clinic when 750 people had moved through the line. "It's going extremely well."

The clinic featured nasal versions of the vaccine, which is a live version of the virus. During the wait, which was only in the halls of Westfield High School, volunteers nurses helped triage those waiting to find out who could not receive a live version based on certain medical conditions. In addition signs were posted when you walked into the high school signs indicated who was not in the targeted population in order to help people not get in line if they should not be receiving the vaccine at this time.

"We were able to get them at the door before they had to wait," Avallone said.

Avallone said most of the individuals receiving the vaccine were young, primarily under the age of 20. A survey of the large but peaceful crowd showed many school age children waiting with their parents. Jennifer Principato was one of those parents.

"I am concerned about my children's health," she said. "I would feel horrible if they came down with H1N1 and I didn't do this."

The clinic was staffed by 25 nurses, along with 40 volunteers for registration. The police set up barricades within the hallways of the high school to allow the line to move peacefully. Those attending the clinic were directed to enter the high school on the Trinity Place side of the parking lot and meandered through to the cafeteria clinic before exiting on the Rahway Avenue side of the parking lot. Fire Chief Dan Kelly said the clinic was designed in order to keep people inside in case of bad weather.

Police were stationed throughout the high school and in the parking lot in case of disturbance. Avallone had expressed concern after the Garwood clinic and another seasonal flu clinic where she had to call in the police to assist with the larger than expected crowds. The clinic was planned in partnership between the health department, the police, the fire department and the Board of Education.

While there has been concern expressed in some corners about the vaccine and if there will be side effects, based mainly on the speed used to create the vaccine for H1N1, those in the line said they did not believe there would be problems.

"I know it was made the same way as the regular seasonal flu vaccine," said John Allen, who was waiting with his young daughter and wife to be vaccinated since they have two children under six months. "I am sure it is safe."

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