By JANIE SOUTHARD
Mercer County Health Department ran out of flu vaccine Thursday
as nearly 500 people, mostly children, were vaccinated throughout
the day. Local parents, worried as more young children across
the nation are reportedly dying from one of the active flu strains,
were willing to wait in line.
The Ohio Department of Health has confirmed the death of a 14-month-old
girl from Bainbridge as the first flu-related death in Ohio
this season. Typically Ohio has 3,000 flu- and pneumonia-related
deaths each year, according to a state health department spokesperson.
As of this morning, health departments in Mercer and Auglaize
counties report 100 and 76 cases of flu, respectively.
At yesterday’s clinic in Mercer County, folks lined up
early, took a number and filled the hallways hoping the health
department wouldn’t run out of shots.
Michelle Muter of Celina and two of her three children carved
out a space on the floor near the top of the “adults with
children” line. Muter arrived early but still would be
41st to receive the shots.
“Two of my kids and I got our shots last Thursday. But,
by the time Sarah got home from school they were out of shots,
so we’re back today,” Muter said, adding this is
the first year her children have been vaccinated.
“I’m taking no chances. My 16-month-old niece in
Indiana died last week. They don’t know if it was the
flu, but they do know it was a viral infection,” Muter
said, her eyes misting. “I’m doing all I can to
protect my kids.”
Although it is recommended that children under 8 years old get
two shots, the primary and a booster, one month apart to vaccinate
from the flu, Auglaize County Health Department’s Deb
Scheer said children will get coverage with the first shot.
“Even though that second, or booster, shot may not be
available in January, we recommend children have the first shot,”
she said this morning via telephone.
Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys reached
full capacity earlier this week due to patients with the flu.
The hospital again was accepting in-patients Thursday and today,
and always has been open to emergency situations or anyone getting
outpatient care, a spokesperson said this morning.
Mercer County Community Hospital Nursing Supervisor Phyllis
Baltes this morning said the Coldwater hospital is not full,
but they have numerous flu patients, the majority being children.
As the local hospitals saw more cases of the flu, there was
some grumbling at the health department in Celina on Thursday
as the wait for the vaccination made many fussy.
One senior citizen told The Daily Standard she arrived 90 minutes
before shots were scheduled and was third in line. She left
the building at about 10:20 a.m., shaking her head and complaining
about the disorganization.
Others also were grumbling about direction signs posted too
low in the hallways causing people to get in the wrong line.
People with lower numbers who chose to wait near the outside
doorway to get some fresh air were surprised to discover there
were no provisions to hear their number called. Many missed
their turn. A health department staffer at the adult sign-in
table said other staffers were trying to holler out numbers.
Sally Bowman, director of nursing at the health department,
told The Daily Standard this morning the sheer number of people
was a surprise.
“We didn’t expect the crowd we got yesterday. We
don’t have a large facility and we have only three nurses.
We did the best we could to get people through as fast as possible,”
Bowman said. “There’s only so much we can do with
our small staff.”
To accommodate those still waiting in line at 5:30 p.m., the
clinic’s normal closing time, Bowman held the clinic open
another three hours. When they finally ran out of vaccine, a
few people had to be turned away.
“We’re working with the state to get more doses,
but there’s no way to tell when or if we can get it,”
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.