Getting the H1N1 vaccine: The waiting is the hardest part

Today’s guest blog entry is by Katie Dineley, a student at the University of Maryland. She was among the first to receive the H1N1 influenza vaccine in Montgomery County, Md., thanks to a flu-shot clinic organized by the health department there.

In mid-October, I went to a local government health facility here in Montgomery County, Md., to get the H1N1 flu vaccine. I thought it would be a 20-minute trip. Was I wrong! When I got there, I could have sworn a sports event or concert was going on. It was the first day the H1N1 vaccine was offered in the county, and police were everywhere telling people where to park. Cars were on the grass, all along the main road and on side streets. The line was intimidating too, wrapping around the building and extending all the way out to the main road. I didn’t want to mess with parking there, so I parked in a neighborhood a few blocks away and walked to the building.

It was about 9:45 in the morning when I got there, and already at least 200 people were in front of me. There were families with small kids, a good amount of pregnant women and some elderly people. Children were running and playing and rolling down the hill. I was surprised to see news cameras there too.

Most of the people in line waited patiently, but one middle-aged man behind me got fed up and rudely cut in line closer to the front. Everyone in line was worried that the vaccine would run out, but health workers were walking through the line reassuring us that there was plenty of vaccine to go around. They handed out fliers with information about who should or shouldn’t get the needle injection or the spray mist. The recommendations are based on age and lots of different health conditions. The intranasal vaccine, or mist — which is sprayed into both nostrils — is only recommended for certain groups. I was considered to be in a “priority group” because I’m younger than 25.

I wore my hooded sweatshirt that morning, thinking it would keep me warm, but boy was I wrong. After two hours, I was happy to get inside the building. It still took another 40 minutes to get to the front of the line, where a health worker administered the mist to me. It had a strange taste, both bitter and sweet, which hit me about five minutes later.

For the next two days, I had a minor headache and felt a little tired and achy, but they told us to expect some minor side effects if we got the intranasal vaccine. I also read in the paper to the next day that about 1,000 people went through the line that day.

I feel so much better now that I’ve been vaccinated against both H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu, which I had done a week earlier. I was worried about catching both. I’m a college student at the University of Maryland, and there are always illnesses being passed around. I can finally go to class worry free. And another good thing: The vaccine was free.

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