Flu clinic draws crowds

More than 3,000 parents and children stood in line on a chilly Saturday to receive swine and seasonal flu vaccines at a community-wide clinic in Cobb County.

Many said they were anxious to obtain vaccines, especially for their kids, amid concerns about reports of children's deaths and vaccine shortages.

Brad and Erika Bunn woke their kids early, with Erika running around the house announcing the kids had to get up and get out. It was, she said, "a frantic morning."

"We thought it was important to get the kids vaccinated, since we've heard of cases of children who have died," said Brad Bunn, 37, of Smyrna, who arrived with his three children.

By the end of day,  1,860 people had received the swine flu vaccine and 579 people had received  seasonal flu shots, said Darlene Foote, a spokeswoman for the Cobb health department.

Reports that the swine flu is moving through their children's schools hastened parents' desire to protect them.

Health officials have urged parents to get their children vaccinated, but it hasn't been easy. Swine flu, which is widespread throughout the nation, had arrived earlier than the seasonal flu and has hit the young particularly hard.

Georgia, like other states, has not received the expected doses of swine flu vaccine, which has caught health officials off guard. The state had initially expected to receive about 2 million doses by the end of this month, but now expects half of that.

The Cobb health department, which also handles Douglas County, offered about 3,000 free doses of the swine flu nasal mist vaccine, and 4,000 of the seasonal flu shots for $25 a shot.

Also on Saturday, President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency. He empowered his health secretary to suspend federal guidelines at hospitals and speed up how infected people might receive treatment in a disaster.

The virus that emerged in April has largely targeted young people. It has killed 1,000 Americans, and about 100 of them were pediatric deaths.

In Georgia the swine flu has hospitalized 582 people and killed 28.

Some people worried about finding vaccine in the face of increasing shortages. Federal health officials say the production of swine flu vaccine is lagging, and supplies in metro Atlanta are at best spotty.

Evelyn Jackson had been all but stalking the swine flu vaccine for her kids. The Kennesaw mother had called pediatricians with no luck. So she was happy when her daughter's school put out a recorded phone message about the mass Cobb clinic.

"I'm just protecting my kids," she said, waiting on line at the clinic held at the county safety village on Al Bishop Drive in Marietta. "It's the kind of flu that kills."

Due to limited supply, Cobb provided the swine flu nasal mist only to healthy people 2 to 24 years of age who were not pregnant and did not have asthma or other chronic medical conditions. They also provided it to people 25 to 49 years of age who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age.

The seasonal flu vaccine, which has also experienced some shortages, was offered to adults and children.

Some children were happy to receive the vaccines; some not. The line was filled with worried young faces. The average wait was about a half hour.

Patricia Martinez tricked her 5-year-old son, Richard, to get him there. The family told him they were going out to eat. But once he saw the needle heading his way for the seasonal flu shot, he transformed into a squirming, red-faced alarmist.

The clinic also offered a drive-thru option, which led to some hyjinx involving kids. When one 5-year-old boy saw the needle coming into the car, he scrambled around the back seat.  It took his mother and father and the nurse to restrain him.