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Rush to get flu shots strains Pasco supplies

This year's brutal flu season has spurred many people to get their annual vaccination, including Pasco's needy population.

The mobile medical van that serves the homeless and uninsured has given 800 flu shots since September, including 78 one day this week when the van was parked at the West Pasco courthouse.

"We were running out," said Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger, whose office oversees the medical van. "That's become a very popular thing since people are hearing about the flu issues."

Dillinger emailed state Rep. Mike Fasano for help Thursday afternoon. By Friday morning, Fasano replied that Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel would donate 250 doses of vaccine.

"When it comes to individuals that are served by the county service, those tend to be individuals who are more at risk," said Brian Adams, CEO of the hospital that opened in October. "That's why we wanted to help keep them safe."

Adams said the vaccines would be available Monday at the hospital's urgent care location in Wesley Chapel. Fasano, R-New Port Richey, works for Florida Hospital as a public affairs director.

Dillinger said the medical van received the initial donations of shots from the Medical Center of Trinity and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. He said the hospitals are "very generous" to donate the vaccines.

"It also hopefully keeps indigent people out of their emergency rooms," he said. "It's kind of a win-win."

The medical van makes regular rotations three times a week to more than a dozen locations across the county. Stops include shelters, soup kitchens, schools and churches.

The van provides basic medical care free of charge to the homeless and needy. Common ailments are minor wounds, blood pressure problems or infections.

Deanna Krautner, a spokeswoman for the Pasco County Health Department, said individual pharmacies "may be out of vaccines, but there is vaccine available."

She said some providers simply didn't order enough supply for this year's busy flu season.

For information on where to find a flu shot, people can visit flushot.healthmap.org. That website allows people to search for stores that sell flu shots. People should call ahead to confirm the vaccine is available.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

.Fast facts

How to help

Hospitals or other health care providers interested in donating flu vaccine to Pasco's medical van can contact homeless outreach coordinator Raine Johns at (727) 417-6279. For more information about the medical van and a schedule of upcoming stops, visit wearethehope.org/mobile-medical-unit.htm.

Rush to get flu shots strains Pasco supplies 01/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 10:07pm]
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