Wednesday, October 28, 2009

H1N1 Flu shot Fiasco. Or, my 15 minutes of anonymous fame.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, I drove to the downtown health clinic to dutifully get my swine flu shot. I left about 6:45 a.m. and neared the clinic by 6:5oish. There was an unanticipated amount of activity the closer I got to the clinic. Masses of people were walking towards it, and there wasn't any parking for blocks. Then the chaos started. People started jaywalking major roads against green lights to get to the clinic. Nevermind the risk of getting hit by a car, these people wanted shots! There was also gross violation of basic roadway laws, which tipped me off that this wasn't going to be fun. Then I saw the clinic. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of people in a jumbled line that stretched down the street. Although I had come prepared with a lawn chair, food and water and a newspaper, not to mention I was dressed for the arctic, I realized that there was no way I could stand in that line by myself.

What to do? Well, what any sensible person would. Send letters to the editor! (Just like Gram would).

I came home and fired off e-mails to as many applicable people I could think of, including Dr. David Sundwall, state Department of Health executive director.

Here's what I wrote:

Dear Dr. Sundwall, October 24, 2009

Today is the first available day I am eligible to get the H1N1 vaccination. I am 6 months pregnant, have asthma, and have a child who is allergic to eggs and can’t be vaccinated. I was astounded when I got to the downtown health clinic at 7:00 a.m. and there were already hundreds of people in line. There was no way I could stand in that line, by myself, and wait to be vaccinated. (I can’t stand for that long, and what if I had to go to the bathroom?! Getting there was hazardous, as well, as there were hordes of people jaywalking and vehicles disobeying traffic laws in order to get there faster). Perhaps there is a better way to organize a vaccination clinic.

I have a suggestion that I feel may help. Pre-registration. It would be nice if people could print out the forms necessary, or pick them up beforehand, and return them to the health department in which they wish the receive the shot. This could be done before flu shots are available. Then, the health department can determine the patient’s priority as far as how soon they can get the shot. The department could take down the person’s name and give them a number. Then, upon determining risk factors, could post in order the numbers representing patient’s available flu shot times. It would be like getting an appointment at a doctor’s office. This would reduce a lot of frustration on both the health clinic’s, and the patient’s, ends. I also believe it would be much more efficient and time saving.

Thank you for your consideration.

Here's what he replied:

Thanks for sharing your experience, K. I related your plight in an interview with the SLTribune, ananymously of course, which was published in a front page article today. I'm sure we can do things better, and I wecome your suggestions. David

Hmm. I got this e-mail on Tuesday, yesterday, and had to look up the archive. Here's the link:

I'll share a little of what was written about me:

Sundwall himself witnessed Saturday's vaccination crowd at the 600 South clinic in Salt Lake City, where his daughter was among 500 people turned away. He received an e-mail from a frustrated asthmatic pregnant mother who has a baby at home. The woman's situation places her in three of the five target groups, yet she failed to get vaccinated after spending Saturday morning in line.
"Instead of just whining, she had an idea for pre-registering," Sundwall said. "We're learning on the job here. There has not been a mass vaccination like this since polio [in the mid-1950s]. We're taking notes, exploring ideas like registering so people in high-priority groups will get in."

Yes, I was that "frustrated asthmatic pregnant mother". I was, however, mis-represented in that, as you'll note in my e-mail, I never said I had a baby at home. I have a 2 year old, yes, but I said I have an egg allergic child who can't get the shot. Also, I didn't stand in line nor say that I had. Oh well, I guess the news media likes drama.

We'll see if any good comes of this.


Natalie said...

Way to go! ;-)

Madame Hallie said...

All I can say is oh brother. At least you put your pen in motion. It is hard seeing people be irritated and do nothing about it. Then it is almost more frustrating when you are not cited correctly. Good for you for being an advocate with an idea.

Karen said...

I admire you.

sumousister2 said...

dang...i am going to get in line because it's at my church building and i can walk over in a couple of min. i hope i can get it. i don't want kellen to get sick...wish me luck...