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Snohomish Health District clinics lauded for immunization plan

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The mass vaccination clinics that allowed some 25,000 children and adults in Snohomish County to be immunized against swine flu in 2009 have received national recognition.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials recently honored the effort with a "model practice award."
The clinics were offered at sites throughout the county, organized by the Snohomish Health District.
But a number of other organizations, including area hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies, the Tulalip Tribes and the county's emergency management department also were involved.
"It was a terrific community effort," Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, said Monday. "I give thanks to all our partners."
The vaccination clinics were offered as swine flu triggered an international pandemic in 2009.
Between August 2009 and April 2010, influenza caused 41,821 hospitalizations and 2,117 deaths nationally among patients with confirmed cases of flu, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Demand for the vaccine was so high that Snohomish County's vaccine clinics caused traffic jams and sometimes hours-long waits as patients lined up for the vaccines. Yet tens of thousands were protected against swine flu during events held on two weekends in late October and early November in 2009.
This method of getting the vaccine out quickly also avoided the confusion and frustration that occurred elsewhere in Washington and across the nation.
In some areas, such as King County, clinic phone lines were jammed with frantic callers. People seeking medical care had problems contacting clinic staff, Goldbaum said
"We got the word out to the community on the hours and the locations and people could really plan," Goldbaum said. "There wasn't a sense of hysteria about it."
The same plan could be used in the future anytime there is a health problem that requires rapid vaccination of the public, he said.
The award from the association was announced July 21 during the group's national conference in Hartford, Conn.
The Snohomish Health District was one of 41 public health programs to receive the awards, selected from a group of 130 applicants.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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