Monday, December 7, 2009

H1N1 疫苗篇 Getting H1N1 Vaccination

I have been trying to get my kids H1N1 vaccinated since end of October. My kids' pediatrician said the U.S. government allocates the H1N1 vaccines to various pediatric clinics when it becomes available, but for some reason, my kids' pediatrician never received any allotment of the H1N1 vaccines. We have been on our pediatrician's H1N1 vaccination waiting list. Meanwhile, I have heard that kids at the school have been getting their H1N1 vaccination. I am not sure where these kids are getting vaccinated, but the fact is that our pediatrician will probably not get any H1N1 vaccines before everyone goes on the Christmas holiday. I had thought about getting the H1N1 vaccines through the Los Angeles County Health Department, but like anything free offered by the government, it means long waiting and long lines at the county health offices.

The last time the County Health Department offered any H1N1 vaccination to the public was in October and it was a drive-through event. The organizer underestimated the amount of people showing up to get vaccinated, so the traffic was so congested that a neighboring city complained of providing extra police force to control the crowd and traffic congestion. People had lined up for hours and by noon, the organizers ran out of H1N1 vaccines. So when last Wednesday, my children's school district sent out a mass email informing the parents of a County-sponsored H1N1 vaccination event on December 7, I took notice, but I wasn't so keen of the possible long lines.

But at my son's 8 Year-old annual check up a day later (last Thursday), the pediatrician indicated that they have not received any H1N1 vaccines. So now, that County-sponsored H1N1 vaccination event becomes our only option if I want my kids to be H1N1 vaccinated before the holidays. However, there is a scheduling conflict. My son's 8th birthday party was to be held on December 7 from 2PM to 4PM, so if I want my kids H1N1 vaccinated, we would have to leave directly after the party. Luckily, the Chuck E. Cheese's at Torrance is not very far from the H1N1 vaccination location, so I arranged with my husband to meet us at the party so we can all drive to the Wilson Park's Sports Center in Torrance together.

The birthday party ran late, so we didn't get to the Wilson Park until 4:40PM. I was worried that we might be late and the vaccines would run out. However, today had the biggest rainstorm in recent years, so I am guessing that the crowd for vaccination didn't gather until the rain let up a bit in the afternoon. The line was long and we were at the tail end of it. There were less than 100 people behind us as the organizers promptly closed the line at 5PM.

There was police presence to control the crowd. The city had volunteers and city workers to show us where to go. We were directed to enter a skating rink about 500 yards from where we parked our car. Then the winding line looks like we were waiting for a Disneyland ride. My kids did not enjoy the anticipation of getting the shots, but at least it felt like a "family" outing. After 20 minutes in line, we were told to fill out 2 forms per person. The line moved quickly, but there were many people ahead of us, so we waited another 20 minutes before reaching a row of tables where people checked our forms. My husband and I were worried that we were not qualified for the H1N1 vaccination because we did not belong to the priority groups for vaccination. But I guess with the low turn out in the morning, they had plenty of H1N1 vaccines left to vaccinate everyone who was there.

The ice rink was outdoor and it was cold waiting there. I didn't expect it to be waiting outside, so my daughter was cold in her thin jacket. Another 10 minutes, we were ushered into a gymnasium where tables upon tables of people were getting vaccinated. Once we were inside, we didn't mind waiting, but soon it was our turn to get vaccinated. All four of us got vaccinated. My daughter was fearful of the shot, so my son volunteered to go first. Because it didn't hurt (it felt like a tiny pin prick), my son was able to tell my daughter that it didn't hurt. That put her mind at ease. The woman who did our shots seemed to know what she was doing. The whole process was quick and painless. It was exactly an hour later when we got back to our car.

What a load off my mind to get the family H1N1 vaccinated! To top everything off, it was free! If we had received our shots at the doctor's office, it would have cost us $20 co-pay per person for the visit and who knows how much the pediatrician will charge us for the injection itself (the H1N1 vaccine would be free) because the act of injection is considered an "invasive" procedure. Our insurance pays 80% of most invasive procedures.

The city of Torrance made this H1N1 vaccination event a painless endeavor. Although it was cold, wet, and windy outside, well-organized events like this showed what the Americans are so great at doing -- public service.