Public Health

Early Bird Doesn't Always Get The H1N1 Vaccine

As a good, caring parent, I decided I should provide my 12-year-old son with the H1N1 vaccine. The District of Columbia Department of Health was kind enough to set up free flu clinics in each of the eight wards that make up this city.

Sen. Harry Reid. i i

hide captionIf you look closely, you will not see Joe Palca and his son in this line for a H1N1 vaccine clinic.

Rick Roach/AP/The Reporter
Sen. Harry Reid.

If you look closely, you will not see Joe Palca and his son in this line for a H1N1 vaccine clinic.

Rick Roach/AP/The Reporter

So last Saturday morning, I dragged myself and my surprisingly agreeable child out of bed at 7:30 so we could go to the clinic in my ward at Wilson Senior High School. I figured if we get there by 8 a.m. when it opened there wouldn't be much of a line. Who gets up at 7:30 on Saturday morning to get a vaccination?

The first hint I had miscalculated were the cars parked a quarter mile from the school entrance. My fears were confirmed when I saw two traffic wardens directing the flow of cars to side streets away from the school.

After the jump: Will Joe Palca's son get his vaccine?

We parked and walked to the end of the vaccine line. Apparently there are more caring parents than me in Ward 3 — about 400 more caring parents. I looked at my son, looked at the line, and decided he'd live until the next clinic, one that we would get up much, much earlier for.

Here's the kicker. Around 1 p.m. that afternoon, my wife called as she was returning from an errand. I asked her to check to see if there was still a mob at the high school. When she got home, she reported there was no line at all. Not really believing her, I nonetheless bundled my son into the car so we could go see for ourselves. She was right. No line. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes.

Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, that there's really no point in getting up early on Saturday morning. For another take, read my colleague Michel Martin's account of her no-holds-barred hunt for flu vaccine.

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