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Nearly 2,000 H1N1 vaccine shots given by MIT Medical so far

MIT Medical has administered almost 2,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine during two clinics this month — and more are in the works.
MIT Medical physician assistant George Taylor administers an H1N1 flu shot to a student at the Nov. 17 clinic at MacGregor House.
MIT Medical physician assistant George Taylor administers an H1N1 flu shot to a student at the Nov. 17 clinic at MacGregor House.
Photo: Alice Waugh

MIT Medical has administered almost 2,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine during two clinics this month — and more are in the works.

Many MIT Medical staff worked on the Veterans Day holiday at a pediatric vaccination clinic in the Building E25 atrium. A total of 847 MIT Medical patients age six months to 17 years got an H1N1 shot. Staff were prepared for an onslaught of anxious parents and their children, but the six-hour session went off without a hitch.

“People were shocked that there was no wait,” said Pediatrics administrative coordinator Phyllis Winn. “There were times we were sitting waiting for people.”

A few parents even emailed MIT Medical in gratitude. “I was blown away by how well-organized the clinic was, and how quickly the line moved,” wrote Amy Banzaert, a graduate student in mechanical engineering and mother of a two-year-old son. “It was great to get access to this vaccine when it’s been in such short supply until now.”

“As a parent, I’m greatly relieved to have had my kids receive the H1N1 vaccine so they can be spared the misery of any illness,” wrote Patti Landry, an optometrist at MIT Medical who was not involved in planning or running the flu clinic. “Clearly, you all had everything so well organized at the flu clinic. Thanks to everyone involved and especially to those who gave up a day off to help the community.”

At a Nov. 17 student clinic at MacGregor House, 1,058 students got H1N1 vaccinations. Ten stations were set up to vaccinate any undergraduate who stopped in, but by early afternoon, there was a light enough patient load that two MIT Medical staff members went to the Stratton Student Center to drum up more business.

“It really made a difference when we went over there with our signs and asked students if they wanted a shot,” Winn said. “When we got back to MacGregor, there was more of a line.” Eventually the clinic was opened to graduate students late in the day (since the extra doses of vaccine had a limited shelf life).

Key organizers for MIT Medical were senior operations manager Deborah Friscino and director of nursing and student health Kris Ruzycki, A.N.P.-B.C. MIT’s Emergency Operations Center recruited help from areas including Facilities, the Housing Office, the Environmental Health and Safety Office, and Mail Services to register students, direct patient traffic and hand out information. All together the operation involved about 40 people, including 12 clinicians and five administrative staff from MIT Medical, plus several nursing students and their instructor from Massachusetts General Hospital.

The two events were the first of several clinics that are intended to reach everyone in the MIT community who wants to be vaccinated against H1N1. Because the arrival times and quantities of vaccine shipments are very unpredictable, MIT Medical has had to plan clinics with just a few days’ notice. Vaccine, which is paid for by the federal government, has been arriving at the rate of about 500 to 1,000 doses a week, according to associate medical director David Diamond, M.D.

MIT Medical is required to vaccinate patients in order of priority group following a protocol set by the federal Centers for Disease Control, so staff are taking appointments for some patients and asking others to keep checking back as more vaccine arrives. The MIT Flu Central web site at is updated frequently with information on vaccine distribution.

The next H1N1 clinic will be by appointment only on Wednesday, Dec. 2, for MIT patients older than 6 months and under 17 years of age, and MIT students under age 24. For pediatrics patients under age 10 who need a second dose of vaccine, there will be an appointment-only clinic on Dec. 15. Call 617-253-4865 for appointments.

MIT Medical has also administered about 6,000 seasonal flu vaccinations since October. The department had hoped to receive a total of 8,900 doses, but after early supplies were exhausted, manufacturers switched priorities to making H1N1 vaccine. It’s unclear how much more seasonal flu vaccine will be delivered, but patients of MIT Medical may put their names on a waiting list by calling 617-253-4865.

MIT Medical has seen about 480 patients with influenza-like illness in the past 10 weeks, Diamond said. While clinicians assume the vast majority of those cases are due to H1N1 infection, they have not been testing most patients since the actual diagnosis doesn’t affect how the illness is treated.

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