Walla Walla County mass flu clinic off like a shot

The three-day flu shot clinic got under way today at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

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Nurses ready a vaccine station while the crowds form en masse at the Fairgrounds Community Building shortly after 7 am for the annual flu shot round-up.

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It turned out to be a handy blindfold please for Lincoln James as his mom Laura James protectively covers his eyes and cradles the 3-year-old as he received his flu shot early Tuesday morning at the Fairground's Community Building. Lincoln was at the annual mass flu shot round-up along with his mom and dad, Laura and Matthew James, and older brother Emmett James.

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Beverly Fuentes (left) receives her flu shot at 7:04am from RN Prisca Crabtree at the annual mass vaccination flu shot round-up at the Fairgrounds Community Building Tuesday. I get up with the chickens, commented Fuentes. They're the only ones up at that time. She was the 2nd person vaccinated.

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At 7:03 am LPN Kathy Strickler gives the 1st flu shot of the new day to Darrell Mayberry Tuesday at the Fairgrounds Community Building during the annual mass flu shot round-up. Doors opened at 7am and volunteers were hoping for somewhere around a 6 minute in-the-door/out-the-door vaccination rate, according to Walla Walla County Public Health Department's Harvey Crowder.

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Walla Walla County Public Health Department's Harvey Crowder poses with the adult flu vaccine.

"Hugbear" did his job well this morning and had a colorful sticker to prove it.

The stuffed bear -- slightly grimy and his disheveled fur loved off in some places -- was on one arm of owner Matthew Reser while an MP3 player was banded to the other.

Matthew, 7, wasn't taking any chances, bringing both old-fashioned and modern comfort to the first morning of Walla Walla County Public Health Department's annual mass flu shot clinic.

The youngster was in the company of his mom, Shawn Reser, and younger brother Benjamin, as well as nearly 80 others who had been vaccinated for seasonal influenza by 7:40 a.m.

An hour earlier, the first of three, 12-hour vaccination days started off with volunteers lined up to receive last-minute instruction and name badges at the Community Center at Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

With several clutching cardboard cups of coffee, 266 area health-care professionals and laymen donned vests of different colors and spread out to a concrete floor dissected with lines of fluorescent tape below hanging signs fluttering in the air.

By 6:45 a.m., workers were in place to help dispense 5,000 adult and 1,500 pediatric doses of seasonal flu vaccine. If enough H1N1 vaccine arrives in time, that will also be given to the priority groups at the mass clinic, health department officials said.

Angela Seydel, dispensing the safety vests of orange, blue and yellow, works incident command at flu clinics around the state for public health, she said. "We brag about this one."

"This one" is in its fifth year, ever-evolving and being tweaked to make it faster, smoother and a better experience for the public and the volunteers.

Take the pediatric area. The two vaccination tables there are surrounded by white curtains this year, which helps to block sight and sound, explained Holly Bower, a nurse volunteer.

"It helps give privacy. One kid can't watch another to set off a chain reaction."

Bertha and Hector Saldana of Milton-Freewater were first up with Jesus, 11, Joanne, 8, and Junior, 6 months. It was the family's first time to use the Walla Walla shot clinic, Bertha said, adding she was attracted to the idea of getting everyone immunized at once.

Jesus and Joanne barely blinked as Bower vaccinated them. Then it was the baby's turn.

Jesus leaned over to kiss his little brother's cheek as Bertha peeled off tiny sweat pants to expose Junior's tiny, chubby thigh. A collective breath was held as Bower moved in with the needle.

With the poke, Junior didn't so much as wince or make a sound. "That usually doesn't happen," his mom said, her eyes a little wide.

"It's what I do all day long," Bower said with a smile.

With that, the Saldana family was back on track for the day -- Jesus and Joanne to school, Hector and Bertha to work.

Her employer, Garrett Packing Co. in Milton-Freewater, has been encouraging employees to get vaccinated, Bertha added.

He strives to be the first one through every year, explained Darrell Mayberry as he navigated the taped-off journey from door to check-in to shot to cashier's table. "So I can get to the field."

The 66 year-old "semi-retired" farmer is a big believer in flu shots, he said, shrugging his jacket back on less than a minute after taking it off.

That speedy delivery has become a hallmark of the mass vaccination clinic. Typical entrance-to-exit time through for adults was less than 10 minutes, even as the room filled from the mix of kids and grown ups streaming through the double doors.

Seeing so many children so early in the day was a welcome sight, noted Vicki Davis, nurse supervisor for the public health department. "We usually get slammed after school."

In the meantime, Matthew Reser was headed to school at Home Link, his mother said.

"No more shots this year, right Mom," he asked hopefully, searching Shawn's face for the answer.

"Probably one more. I'm sorry," she replied.

He and Hugbear took the news in stride, the youngster revealing his mother's recipe for vaccination success.

"Whenever we have to get a shot, our mom takes us for ice cream."

Roundup continues

The Walla Walla County Public Health Department's flu shot round up continues until 7 p.m. today, and will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. In-vehicle vaccinations are available and some insurance companies can be directly billed. Flu shots are $25 for adults, $10 for children. Pneumonia shots are $45 for adults, $10 for kids. Cash, checks, debit and credit cards are being accepted for payment. For more information call 524-2650.

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