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HomeNewsArchivesFlu Concerns Cause Record Turnout for CareForce Events

Flu Concerns Cause Record Turnout for CareForce Events

Event organizer Dr. Cora Christian (right) reviews Beatrice Gumbs' chart with her. National attention and local concern about contracting the H1N1 virus had unprecedented numbers of residents getting flu shots and other health screenings at this week’s CareForce health events.
More than 2,400 residents turned out for free immunizations earlier this week on St. Croix, and Thursday’s event on St. Thomas at UVI’s Sports and Fitness Center drew at least 1,200, according to event organizer Dr. Cora Christian.
A Friday event scheduled at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Tutu had to be cancelled due to the waning supply of seasonal flu vaccine.
CareForce also offered an event Thursday on St. John at St. Ursula’s Senior Center, which Christian said was swamped by flu-wary residents.
Typically, Christian said, the event brings out about 1,000 people per day. With 50 people waiting outside UVI when they arrived at 7:30 a.m., CareForce volunteers knew they were in for a busy day. Scheduled to end at 6 p.m., they kept the doors open almost until 7.
At UVI at 4:30, CareForce had only 200 seasonal flu vaccinations left, with more than two hours to go, Christian said.
In previous years, CareForce has provided the seasonal flu vaccine, but this year partnered with the V.I Department of Health to offer both vaccinations.
The partnership was a natural fit, with the Department of Health needing to distribute H1N1 vaccinations widely, and CareForce with a well-developed organization and a timely event already in place.
The H1N1 vaccination was available only to priority groups, including pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months, health care and emergency medical services personnel, infants, and adults with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, sickle cell, or a weakened immune system.
Dr. Audria Thomas, director of the Office of Medical Affairs for the V.I. Health Department, said the [H1N1] "vaccination will be available to everyone at a later date as we get more vaccine from the CDC [Centers for Disease Control].” The H1N1 vaccine is provided at no cost by the federal government, Christian said.
While most of those getting vaccinations were adults, many of CareForce’s participants bring young children with them. A number of children arriving to CareForce with their parents or grandparents received their H1N1 vaccination with little fuss. (Other V.I. school children will soon be offered the H1N1 vaccine, for whom consent forms must be returned no later than Friday, according to a Thursday evening press release from the V.I. Department of Education. However, dates for school vaccinations have not yet been announced according to the release.)
Many attendees at Thursday’s event have been coming for years. “Thanks for all your care, I have been coming since you started,” attendee Beatrice Gumbs said to Christian. “This has grown a lot. I was surprised to see the amount of people here. The nurses are very friendly and nice, and it makes you want to come every year for the love.”
In addition to faithful attendees, CareForce boasts a broad base of sponsors and dedicated volunteers, from around the territory and the country.
Volunteers included Eugene Scanzera, AARP’s national vice president for Medicare and pharmacy, who joined a number of local AARP staff to help out at the event.
“This is my second year,” Scanzera said. “It is among the most well-organized public health screenings I have seen," he said, adding, that the event was "hard labor."
Other organizations donating time or personnel included Hovensa, V.I. National Guard, United Healthcare, and UVI, whose nursing students screened and treated patients.

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