Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I am always impressed with how efficient the government is. Especially the California government. And, most especially the Sacramento County government. Everything runs so smoothly here, you would not believe it. It's all a Swiss clock and the trains run on time too.

Okay, we don't really have trains. And, there are lots of potholes in the streets and the traffic lights don't synch and the cops won't come unless somebody pulls a gun on you and even then it takes an hour. But, you know what I mean.

Naturally, when I found out that the government was going to dole out the H1N1 vaccination instead of doctors, I was thrilled. After all, what do physicians know about who should get the swine flu shot? Why should they make that health care decision, when the government is perfectly capable of deciding for them?

And really, why would I even want to get it from my oncologist in his office when I can get it at a homeless shelter surrounded by thousands of citizens and injected by county health workers?

This vaccine is in short-supply. So, it would seem that each city is given an allotment and are left to individually decide how to handle the distribution.

Some of the more inefficient cities distributed it to medical personnel and hospitals. Some gave it to Walgreens Pharmacies. Some gave it to large employers and universities, some distributed it in schools and some did a combination of things.

Sacramento decided that they were going to open clinics in various homeless shelters, community centers, and churches throughout the city every other day or so. Only those people designated "high risk" were to get the shot for the first few clinics.

High risk means pregnant women, healthcare/EMS workers, people caring for babies under 6 months, and adults 24-64 with specific medical conditions (including those who will undergo chemotherapy)

But as our local newspaper wisely reported - it's all on the honor system. Nobody actually has to have any kind of proof they are in the high risk category - nobody will check. All you have to do is say you have a condition and bam! Needle in the arm.

Thank God the newspaper published that tidbit, just in case somebody didn't think of it on their own.

Along with that helpful advice, the paper published the dates and times of the clinics. I start chemo December 2nd and am supposed to get my shot two weeks before. There was a clinic near me, Saturday the 21st, which was the last one available to high risk people (or those willing to lie). It was 11 days from my chemo date so I was cutting it close but it was the only one I could get to in between doctors appointments. I marked my calendar, dreading it, because reports were that over 5000 plus people were showing up, but I work in a school, if I want to go back I have to brave the crowds.

So, I'm hanging around the house last Thursday listening to the radio, and suddenly my ears swiveled towards the radio like a cat's. The weekend flu clinics were being canceled due to rain, a decision made by our public health officer Glennah Trochet. The exact quote - and you can't make this up - is that the county health department was worried somebody might slip on the sidewalk.

I kid you not.

I checked the forecast, figuring we were in for a huge early-season storm.

The forecast? 54 and 20% chance of showers.

Honestly, I'm so impressed. The government is so concerned about our health that they aren't going to allow cancer patients to get the shot in time for chemo - because we might slip on the sidewalk.

Is that efficient, or what? Thank GOD they didn't dole it out to oncologists or other doctors - why, we foolish people might have gone out in the rain to get the shot!

It's too bad private business aren't as concerned about our health. After all, the Sacramento Kings play on rainy nights, the B Street Theater insists the show must go on in spite of any rain, concerts continue on days of precipitation - even those limp-wristed San Franciscans don't cancel outdoor 49er games on rainy days.

I think we should all boycott these businesses because they clearly don't care about us.

So now, I'm left with a dilemma. I can go to the next one in my area, but risk getting it only 8 days before chemo - or chance not getting the shot at all.

If I wasn't a school employee, I'd have skipped it. But at some point I'm going back to work, and it'll probably be at the height of the flu season and teachers don't seem to go home sick - they just come in my office and cough on me. So, I picked November 24, although it's listed as open to anybody, and I knew the lines would be huge.

Today is the 24th and I got back not long ago. And, because I work for the government myself, and feel kinda tired now, I'll relate my vaccination experience later, when I feel like it.

How is that for efficient?

By the way, we got a whole 1/10th of an inch of rain the weekend they canceled the clinic, so it was clearly the right decision. My husband and I bucked the danger and went out to brunch. We are super-adventurous types. Amazingly, neither of us slipped.

Or even got our hair wet.



  1. It is a bit better organised this side of the pond - GPs write to those in the at risk groups and turn up for an appointment. But this does still mean sitting in a room with 40 other people - two of them sitting on each of your knees.

    Bit bemused by your need to have it two weeks before? I had mine yesterday and will chemo number 5 tomorrow. I hope there isn't something they haven't told me?! P x

  2. I think it depends on if you get the live virus or the killed. As it turns out, I got the killed so the timing probably doesn't matter. I didn't know that at the time and I guess my onc wasn't sure. They are giving the live virus to kids. No idea why.

    40 people sounds good to me - I think I stood in a line of 4000. :)

  3. My oncologist gave me the following instructions: no live vaccine (nasal spray) and I can't get the shot within 3 full days before or after getting chemo. I ended up getting mine 3 days after chemo, about 3 weeks ago. I got mine from my son's pediatrician who actually gave me her dose (intended for her to get as a healthcare worker) because she knew my wbc counts were so incredibly low and I can't stand in any of these absurd county health clinic lines here in CA. I'm so grateful for her generosity and kindness. I hope you get your shot without incident and soon.

  4. I didn't update it because I got behind but I did get the shot. I had to wait in line for 2 hours though - I won't even do that at Disneyland. It's ridiculous they way they are doing it.

    I haven't gotten my 12 year old his - I think he might have had the flu, but if not, with his homework load and extra-curricular activities - we have no time to wait in 2-3 hour lines.


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