Flu-shot seekers flock to Wal-Mart
Shortages lead many to try for one of 240 doses
VIRGINIA CORNELIUS, 80, said she decided "to join the party" after her son dropped her off about 6:30 a.m. yesterday at Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street to get a flu vaccination.
"I always come over here for exercise and shopping, and I just heard about it," Cornelius said, referring to the flu shots offered by the store yesterday starting at 10 a.m.
Cornelius wasn't even the first one there.
High demand for the shots, and manufacturing troubles for Chiron Corp., one of the country's leading suppliers of vaccine, have caused shortages. The Hawaii Medical Service Association, Times Supermarkets and Longs Drug Stores canceled flu clinics this month, prompting lines that went out the door and down the block yesterday at Wal-Mart.
Susan Lashier of Makiki and Jerry Perrault of Kaimuki were the first ones in line -- at 5:30 a.m.
But Cornelius was first to get a shot, while Lashier and Perrault were delayed doing the paperwork.
The Keeaumoku site had 240 doses of vaccine. The other six Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs in the state each had about 100 doses, according to a spokesman.
All Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs nationwide -- more than 3,750 sites -- participated in the one-day event with Interfit Health.
The shots were free for residents with a Medicare Part B card and picture identification. Others were charged $24.
"It wasn't bad," Cornelius said after the shot, heading off to shop.
Lashier said she had never had a flu shot before, but decided to do it this year because of bird flu.
THE SEASONAL flu vaccination isn't targeted at avian flu, a virus that infects birds and poultry. But it could offer more protection if the virus should mutate for human transmission and reach Hawaii, authorities say.
Vaccinations were given on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hideo Kono, 88, of Kaimuki, was using a walker. "Good for the old people," he said, explaining why he went there by bus at 8:30 a.m.
Sharon Lau was pushing her 98-year-old aunt, Teruko Kawabe, in a wheelchair.
She said she had tried to get her aunt vaccinated by her doctor, but was told in September and again last month that he didn't get a supply of vaccine.
Tony and Namsun Adea of Salt Lake waited for more than two hours to get their shots. He said they wanted to get them before going to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, but had been unable to find a clinic.
Frank Scarpinito of New York, at the end of the line about noon, expected to get one of the 240 doses of vaccine doses as the line grew behind him.
He had gone to Kapiolani Community College for a flu shot earlier in the morning, but KCC canceled its clinic and told him to go to Wal-Mart, he said.
"I'm middle-aged (55) and have a heart condition. The doctor says get it," Scarpinito said.
At about 4:10 p.m., health workers at the Wal-Mart clinic told those remaining in line they couldn't take any more people.
SHOTS STILL AVAILABLE
Vaccinations are still available at a number of places, according to Aloha United Way's 211 information line.
Call 2-1-1 for an updated list of clinics giving flu shots, or see the state Health Department's Web site: www.vaxhawaii.com.
PREVENT SPREAD OF FLU
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to protect themselves and help prevent spread of flu by:
» Covering their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
» Frequently washing their hands or using alcohol-based gels and wipes.
» Reminding family members to practice healthy habits, because germs that cause colds, flu and pneumonia spread easily among those in close contact.
» Staying home when sick with the flu, and seeing a doctor when necessary.