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CareForce Cancels Friday Vaccination Event at Tutu

Dr. Cora Christian vaccinates Dr. Alfred Heath Thursday at CareForce.A shortage of seasonal flu vaccines caused the cancellation of the CareForce event scheduled for Friday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Tutu.
As of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, only about 200 vaccines were left near the end of the first day of what had been planned to be a two-day event. Thursday’s vaccination event was at UVI’s Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas.
Any vaccines left over after Thursday will be distributed to local senior centers on Friday, CareForce organizer Dr. Cora Christian said when she announced the closing.
The Virgin Islands Health Department will offer the vaccines at other events and venues as it becomes available, said Dr. Audria Thomas, director of the Office of Medical Affairs for the V.I. Department of Health.
Thursday’s event was a continuation of the annual free-of-charge vaccination and health screening clinics held on all three islands.
Virgin Islands CareForce is a project staffed entirely by volunteers, with a mission to increase the provision of preventive health services to seniors. This year with the advent of the H1N1 virus, CareForce and the Virgin Islands Department of Health teamed up to offer both vaccines.
The Virgin Islands National Guard, along with Hovensa, the American Association of Retired Persons, United Health Care, as well as volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists all volunteer for the project, which has provided health services to medically underserved communities since 2000.
The company that normally supplies the event was able to provide only half the seasonal flu vaccines requested. The company said that CareForce was lucky to get the number of vaccines they sent, Christian said.
“Any heightened awareness of H1N1 is going to … drive up participation for the seasonal flu shot up,” said second-year volunteer Eugene Scanzera, AARP’s national vice president for Medicare and pharmacy.
Seasonal flu vaccination stores were already running low Thursday after a record turnout of 2,400 on Monday and Tuesday’s CareForce’s events on St. Croix. The event normally sees about 1,000 people per day there, Christian said.
Earlier this week Christian turned to K-Mart, which came through with another 500 vaccine doses that had to be sent from Puerto Rico.
As of Thursday morning, with FedEx reporting that the vaccines could not arrive until Friday evening, Christian accelerated into high gear, wielding up to three cell phones simultaneously, making calls to K-Mart, FedEx and even enlisting friends of pilots to see if there was some way to get the vaccines to St. Thomas in time for the event.
Kevin Raymond, a pilot and plane owner on St. Thomas, helped to enlist Shawn James, a commercial pilot and flight instructor already en route from St. Thomas to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to collect the vaccine.
Sometime shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday Christian got word from FedEx that the vaccine was already on St. Thomas. Christian went herself to the FedEx office to pick up the vials. FedEx later said that the package was shipped priority, not regular delivery, and the person who provided the incorrect information must have quoted the regular delivery time, Christian said.
Both Raymond and James were later given red-carpet treatment at the event, both receiving their seasonal flu shots from Christian herself.

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