Thousands of people — some of whom waited outside for hours — came out to get their H1N1 vaccines when the city opened its mass vaccination clinics yesterday.

An hour after the clinics opened at 2:30 p.m., the line outside the Tom Brown Arena — one of five sites open seven days a week for the duration of the campaign — snaked around the building.

“We’ve got a lot of interest, obviously, and that’s promising,” said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Isra Levy. “This is going to be a many, many week, if not months exercise here. It’s too early to say how it’s going, but I’m very encouraged by the interest and certainly very encouraged by the staff, who work extremely well.”

Levy said he wasn’t surprised by the turnout.

“Our surveys have shown that there would be a lot of interest,” he said.

Despite the long lines, “the actual supply of vaccines is not an issue,” said Levy yesterday.
The first shipment, which was about 37,500 vaccines, will be followed by a second shipment today.

For the next several weeks, the priority will be vaccinating those with chronic medical conditions, children between six months and five years of age, pregnant women and front-line health-care workers.

Health-care workers are asked to identify themselves so they can be expedited through the line, Levy said.

Ottawa resident John Saumier waited two hours to get the vaccine yesterday, but the shot was definitely worth it, he said.

Saumier’s doctor recommended that the 53-year-old get the vaccine immediately because he is on a waiting list for a heart transplant.

Sabrina Dawson brought her son, who is just under six months old, in for a vaccine, and ended up getting one herself.

“People that don’t get the vaccine are putting others at risk,” said Dawson, a geneticist.
Still, the clinic wasn’t without problems.

Although the clinic at the arena didn’t open until 2:30 p.m., Rachel Inch was in line by 1:15 to ensure that she and her six-month-old son, Chesel, would be among the first to get the shot.

But when the doors opened, Inch said some people cut in front.

“It was disorderly,” Inch said. Still, she said, the wait for the vaccine was “definitely worthwhile.”

“We’re asking the public to be patient and bear with us,” said Levy.

“The limitations are our capacity to give the vaccine. We’ve used every available nurse and we only have so many available facilities.”