By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Dozens of people hoping to get flu shots at a North Side clinic showed up hours early Monday, forcing health-care workers to administer vaccines earlier than planned, and leaving latecomers out in the cold.
The stream of people in line snaked through the waiting room at Youngstown Community Health Center, 726 Wick Ave., through the clinic doors, into the parking lot and along the side of the building.
Some leaned on walkers or sat patiently in their wheelchairs, others shifted impatiently from one foot to the other, a few collapsed in waiting room chairs, fewer still held restless toddlers in their arms.
Why the early start?
The flu shot clinic "was supposed to begin at 1 p.m. but people were lined up -- they had lawn chairs, lunches, everything -- and our regular patients couldn't get in," said Beth Haddle, site administrative director, "so we started early."
By 2 p.m., more than 350 vaccines had been administered, Haddle said. An hour later, all 450 doses were gone.
Because of the vaccine shortage, only individuals deemed "high risk" were able to receive the shots -- people 65 or older, children between 6 months and 23 months old, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes or heart, lung or kidney disease.
Most of those who waited in line fell into the high-risk category, Haddle said; those who didn't were turned away.
Student nurses screened each individual to ensure they met the high-risk requirement and a few, despite being informed that they were not eligible to receive the vaccine, tried repeatedly, approaching different health workers only to be turned away again.
Many of those who received the vaccine said they were relieved and thankful.
"It's very hard to find a place to get the flu shot this year," said Georgeanna Deiwert of Liberty.
Deiwert couldn't get the vaccine from her doctor because he didn't have any, and she was turned away at a flu shot clinic at Giant Eagle when supplies ran out.
"My husband is a total invalid, and he has [multiple sclerosis] and diabetes," she said. "He's in the hospital right now, and they won't give him one."
She said she's worried her husband will go without a vaccine despite his vulnerable condition because of the scarcity.
Walter Reichert, 84, of Campbell, is wondering if he'll have to go without a flu shot, too. He was one of several people turned away from the Youngstown Community Health Center when the vaccine ran out.
He said he also was turned away from flu shot clinics at two different Giant Eagle supermarkets.
"I'm always standing in line, but I'm still searching," Reichert said.
"I was planning to go somewhere else, but a friend of mine got a shot here and told me they still had some," said Helen Sacherman, 72, of Youngstown. "I called and they said they had some and would be giving shots until 4 p.m. So, I rushed down here, and they were gone."
Sacherman entered the clinic just moments after the last dose was administered, but she is still optimistic. "I'll get it somewhere," she said.
Despite demand, crowds and the scarcity of vaccine, not everyone had a hard time finding a flu shot.
Jean Bobo White, 74, of Youngstown, had a dental appointment at the clinic and decided to arrive early after learning that flu shots would be available.
"I had no idea there'd be so many people," she gasped, but she held her place in line and received her vaccine with time to spare before her appointment.
The line moved swiftly with three nurses administering shot after shot, nursing students screening individuals, and administrative staff making copies of insurance cards.
Worked for them
George and Anna Mae Siva of Lowellville waited in line only 25 minutes before getting their vaccines, and this was the first place they came, George said.
"When we first pulled in it looked crowded," Anna Mae added, "but we didn't have any trouble."
Helene and Anthony D'Apolito of Youngstown didn't have any problem, either. They said they waited in line for about a half-hour.
Before getting their vaccines, Helene said they were worried they wouldn't be able to find any available doses. They usually get their shots at their doctor's office, she said, "but she's not getting it this year."
Agnes Delsignore of Campbell said she feels exceptionally lucky. "I got the last shot from one of the nurses."
Her husband, Joe, also was vaccinated and, he said, "We only waited 15 to 20 minutes."
Youngstown Community Health Center will have another flu shot clinic only if it receives another shipment of the vaccine.