Lexington's Christina Castorena wasn't taking any chances on her son Tavito getting an H1N1 flu shot, so they were the first ones in line when the Fayette County Health Department began immunizing high-risk youngsters Saturday at Henry Clay High School.
"I kept checking with the doctor's office, but they said they wouldn't be getting flu vaccine anytime soon," Castorena said. "So, here we are. We were just lucky to be the first ones in line."
People were lined up well before nurses began administering shots just before 9 a.m. Some said they came as early as 6:30 a.m. for Lexington's first big, public H1N1 flu vaccine clinic.
Tavito, 10, said he was a little nervous about getting a needle in his arm. But he said he wasn't complaining too much because he didn't want to get swine flu. Tavito has asthma, which puts him in the high-risk category for the illness.
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Fayette health officials said they vaccinated about 1,500 patients by the time the clinic ended at 3 p.m.
Shots, which were given free Saturday, were earmarked for children with underlying, chronic health problems. The health department said vaccine left over from Saturday will be stored and used for two H1N1 shot clinics scheduled next weekend, or distributed to Lexington physician offices.
Dr. Melinda Rowe, the Fayette County health commissioner, said she hopes to have enough H1N1 vaccine on hand by December to open clinics to the general public. Until then, priority groups should come first, she said.
High demand and slow production have resulted in short supplies of swine-flu vaccine nationwide. Clinics in some states have drawn huge numbers of people, with some waiting in line overnight. Vaccine supplies are still coming in, but shortages continue. Seasonal flu vaccine also remains scarce in many areas.
At Henry Clay on Saturday morning, some parents tried to keep their youngsters entertained with books while they waited in line. One mother brought a portable DVD player so her daughter could watch a movie.
About 500 children were vaccinated during the first two hours of the clinic. Traffic then slacked off until just after noon, when a surge of patients arrived and kept up a steady stream for the rest of the afternoon.
Health department spokesman Kevin Hall said the surge apparently was ignited by word on the Internet that vaccine was available, and by word of mouth.
"It looks like a lot of the people who were here in the morning called all their friends and told them to come," he said. "The lull around noon time actually helped us because it allowed some of our people to grab some lunch and rest a little before the surge started."
Rhonda Chapman of Lexington, another early arrival at the clinic, said that up until Saturday, she was worried that her daughter, Briana Chapman, 10, might miss out on getting a flu shot.
"She can't take the mist vaccine and you can't find the shot vaccine in Lexington," she said. "We were watching the news every day, but it got to where you didn't know where to look."
Janice Dant said she was relieved to get shots for her children, Adrian and Alex Bard and Devin Bowman.
"The whole thing scares me," she said. "I've already gotten my shot, and now the children are protected. The only thing left is to persuade Daddy to get one."
Children 9 and under who received shots Saturday should get a follow-up vaccination in about a month to develop full protection against swine flu, the health department said. However, a single shot will give some immunity, officials said.
Next weekend's clinics
The Fayette County Health Department will hold H1N1 flu-shot clinics Saturday at Paul Laurence Dunbar and Bryan Station high schools.
The clinics will be for the priority groups for H1N1. They include pregnant women; healthy children and adults ages 6 months to 24 years; individuals who live in homes with or care for children under 6 months of age; people ages 25-64 whose health is compromised; and health care and emergency response workers.
The clinics will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Shots are free.
For more information on H1N1, or details about other vaccination clinics, call the state Public Health Influenza Hotline at 1-877-7727 or go to http://healthalerts.ky.gov.
You also can get information from the Fayette County Health Department by calling (859) 288-7529 or going to www.lexflucrew.com.