Flu vaccine clinic draws hundreds

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With a slight prick to the upper arm, hundreds of North County residents on Saturday became some of the first members of the general population in the area to be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus.

The Northern Berkshire Pandemic Response Group held a free clinic at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center, where dozens of hospital staff, police, EMTs and volunteers assisted in getting 705 people vaccinated against swine flu, including the 315 at-risk locals who preregistered for the shot.

Before Saturday's clinic, the only residents in the area who received the vaccine were children under the age of 18, pregnant women, caregivers of children under 3, those with compromised immune systems and high risk individuals with chronic diseases.

And now that the vaccine is available to everyone, some of those at the center came to get the vaccine because of the practicality of the free clinic.

"It's here, it's available," said Louis Yarter, of Adams. "You can't ask for anything more than that."

Others, like Nadine Kuhner, of Adams, weren't too worried about getting the virus, but came just to ensure the health of themselves and those around them.

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"I don't want to get sick, I don't want to get people sick at work, I don't want to get my family sick," she said.

And after delays in receiving shipments and numerous calls to local hospitals with questions about access to the shot, it's a relief to finally make it available to the general population, according to Sharon Leary, community coordinator for the Northern Berkshire Pandemic Response Group.

"There is enough vaccine in the state of Massachusetts that everyone can be vaccinated if they choose to have it," she said.

While the clinic was held for residents of North County and parts of southern Vermont, additional clinics are expected to be held in Pittsfield this week, while residents in South County can also contact the nearest Fairview Clinic to set up a short nurse-only appointment.

Future North County clinics are also planned for Adams, Lanesborough and Williamstown.

And though fears about far-reaching impacts of the virus have subsided of late, Leary said it's still important that locals get the shot.

"People should want to be vaccinated because there is a possibility that we could see another wave of the swine flu," she said.

To reach Trevor Jones: (413) 528-3660 or tjones@berkshireeagle.com.


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