- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

Prince George’s County health officials averaged nearly 200 calls an hour yesterday from residents requesting appointments for flu shots.

The county set up a hot line for at-risk residents to schedule flu shot appointments at clinics Nov. 20 and 22. But the deluge of calls overloaded the phone system and caused many residents to simply get a busy signal, instead of speaking to available operators on the other end.

“We had more operators than calls coming in,” said Dr. Frederick Corder, chief health officer of the Prince George’s County Health Department.

Officials had the problem fixed before noon, and by 1:30 p.m., operators had scheduled more than 800 appointments. The county has about 2, 800 doses of the vaccine available from a multistate contract, and Health Department officials estimated there are about 57, 000 at-risk residents.

“We’re only making appointments for the shots that we have,” Dr. Corder said. “We know that we cannot fill the need [and] wanted to do this as a method where we could reach the most vulnerable.”

After the telephone system was fixed, callers to the hot line were directed to operators who listed conditions qualifying patients as at-risk.

Residents between the ages of 19 and 64 with chronic medical conditions were granted appointments, and officials said patients must bring a doctor’s note proving their medical condition, along with proofs of age and county residency.

The decision to hold the clinics coincides with an announcement by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to apportion 10.3 million remaining doses of the vaccine to states according to need. Virginia health officials estimated the state will receive about 232,000 doses from the allotment, but how those doses are distributed to counties remains to be seen.

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