More than 300 local residents lined up last week to receive free H1N1 (swine flu) vaccinations available at several locations in Hudson County. More clinics will be held in the next few weeks.
Even though last week’s clinics were in West New York, they were open to all Hudson County residents, and no one was required to show I.D.
On Monday, four nurses from Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen were on hand at St. Joseph of the Palisades community center in West New York to give injections to residents 18 and over. Although the doors weren’t scheduled to open until 11 a.m., some people were already looking for the vaccination shortly after 9 a.m. and the clinic had to open half an hour early.
“It’s important to get to the people who need it the most, people are desperate for help.” – Joanne Riggs
Medical professionals from Palisades will be back at St. Joseph of the Palisades Roman Catholic Church to administer free H1N1 immunizations on Feb. 6.
“We’re trying to get out as much vaccine as we possibly can,” said Rivelli, who also organized clinics in Weehawken, Guttenberg, and Secaucus. “These clinics are open to everybody, not only residents of the town.”
The current version of the swine flu virus has been spreading around the country since fall, with deadly effects for some, particularly young people, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing conditions.
But it was not been available to non-risk groups until recently.
By noon on Monday, over 150 consent forms were ready to be processed at St. Joseph’s of the Palisades. Carmen Williams, a unit secretary for Palisades hospital, volunteered to help with data entry and registration. She said that none of the people who came in expressed any concerns about the vaccine.
“They just want it,” said Williams. “The one question I keep getting is how much it costs, but it’s free.”
Sister Joanne Riggs, the coordinator of faith based initiatives at Palisades, said that the clinic was made possible by a joint effort between the Department of Pastoral Care at the hospital and the pastor at St. Joseph’s parish.
“We just happened to have the vaccine,” said Riggs. “So now’s the time; all of it’s done for free. [Some residents] have no jobs, no money, no insurance. It’s tough for people.”
The Department of Pastoral Care at Palisades Medical Center conducts several outreach clinics throughout the year at a variety of religious centers as well as schools, employers, and civic associations. The Faith-Based Community Outreach Program at the medical center focuses on providing health care needs to individuals and families who struggle because of economic, social, and language barriers.
“That’s where you really tend to get folks,” said Riggs. “They trust in their worship centers. It’s important to get to the people who need it the most, people are desperate for help.”
Nearly 300 vaccinations were given out by Palisades Medical Center nurses at their free clinic by the end of Monday.
Better safe than sorry
People walking out of the clinics last week could be heard commenting on how rapid the process was and expressing their gratitude to the volunteers.
Cervantes Ancelmo and Carmen Gonzalez of West New York attended the flu clinic at St. Joseph’s. “We went to church and they had posters there,” said Ancelmo. “It was very quick. I cannot feel it.”
Ancelmo said his son, Manuel, who was with him, had already received all of his shots this season from his doctor, including H1N1. “We got it now to be precautious; to be safe for the future,” said Ancelmo. “Many people have died.”
Rosa Cuevas went to mass that morning and saw the bulletin in church. “Every year I get the regular flu shot,” said Cuevas in Spanish. “This year I couldn’t get the regular one, but I got this one instead.”
Rosa regularly received the flu shot at the factory where she worked, however now she is out of a job. She had been searching for a place to get the H1N1 vaccine, but every clinic she found was for kids or 64 and older, or fell on a day she wasn’t able to go.
“I am happy that I could come here,” she said.
Nurses on hand at the vaccine clinic set up at Hudson Hall last Wednesday said the crowd had been sparse for most of the day. “Some of the elderly can be scared,” said Certified Medical Assistant Lorena Polo. “They want to ask their doctor first.”
Polo and her colleague John Robles, a registered nurse (RN), work at a North Hudson Community Action Corporation clinic that runs every Saturday. They said the turnout on Saturdays has been high.
In addition to the clinics set up for residents, Assistant West New York Schools Superintendent John Fauta also coordinated an H1N1 vaccine program for the schools. The program began on Nov. 23 and finished Jan. 19, offering free vaccinations to all students. Parents were sent a letter advising them that the vaccine would be available free of charge and an overwhelming majority took the free vaccination. The ones who did not had, for the most part, already received the vaccination from their own doctor. A second, required round of vaccinations for children ages 10 and under is set to begin in February.
For more information or to obtain a schedule of upcoming health screenings at Palisades Medical Center, please call (201) 854-5793. To get information about the North Hudson Community Action Corporation, call (201) 866-9320.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.