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Two swine flu clinics open today for uninsured and at-risk L.A. County residents [Updated]

October 23, 2009 | 11:28 am

Hundreds of people who face the greatest risk from swine flu infections and do not usually have access to medical care began receiving free H1N1 vaccines this morning at county health clinics in Encino and Culver City.

"Though flu may not be considered by some to be a serious illness, some groups are at higher risk, and they especially should get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino.

The two clinics are the first in Los Angeles County since the vaccine became available, and are occurring as cases of swine flu are surging in the state. Shipments of vaccine have been slow to arrive, frustrating physicians and others. California has received 1.7 million doses of H1N1 vaccine so far out of 20 million doses expected this season.

Starting at 9 a.m., public health staffers at a clinic designed to serve the underinsured began immunizing people who face the greatest risks of infection – pregnant women, those from 6 months to 24 years old and adults between the ages of 25 and 64 who have chronic health problems. Because infants younger than 6 months cannot be vaccinated for the swine flu, parents and caregivers are also urged to get immunized.

People with insurance are urged to get the vaccine from their healthcare providers as it becomes available in coming weeks. Vaccinations may also be available at chain pharmacies starting the first week of November.

“Preventing the flu is both an individual responsibility and a community effort,” said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “Our county Department of Public Health will be working with several partners to conduct H1N1 vaccine clinics in cities and unincorporated areas throughout the county. The public should know that through these efforts, everyone at high risk will have an opportunity to protect their health with this vaccine.”

The clinics are taking place today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Balboa Sports Complex, 17015 Burbank Blvd. in Encino; and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Ave. in Culver City. More are scheduled over the weekend and in coming weeks. To see a list of upcoming clinics, click here.

“Vaccine is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of flu,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's public health officer. “I urge all those in the vaccine priority groups, which are based on their risk for a severe case of H1N1, to join me in getting the vaccine. Prevention starts with you.”

[Updated at 11:54 a.m.: Nearly 1,000 people were waiting for immunizations in Encino, with an orderly line snaking from the sports complex, across the parking lot and past athletic fields. The first person in line, Alexa White of Reseda, arrived at midnight.

She has only one lung, which puts her at greater risk of complications from the flu. After entering the gymnasium, people answer medical questions and sign a waiver before receiving the vaccination, either in injectable or nasal-mist form. The vaccines arrived by refrigerated truck this morning. Fielding and Yaroslavsky were the first and second people to receive the shots.]

-- Seema Mehta

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