SILVER SPRING – Sixty winners of Montgomery County’s flu shot lottery missed appointments to get their vaccinations Thursday, the health department said, opening up slots for others among the 20,000 who applied for the immunizations.
Bad weather — more than an inch of rain had fallen in much of the county by late afternoon — may have kept some patients away, health officials said. But if the winners don’t make it in, their allotment won’t go to waste.
“If people cannot make their scheduled time, the vaccine will go to someone else on the list,” said Ulder Tillman, Montgomery County public health officer. “Unless they can show up (Thursday) afternoon.”
More than 20,000 Montgomery County residents applied for a random drawing two weeks ago in order to receive one of the county’s 800 doses of flu vaccine, which were made scarce after British manufacturer, Chiron Corp., was shut down due to contamination.
Forty of the first 200 people scheduled didn’t show up for their morning appointments Thursday, the first of two days the county will distribute the vaccines to the lottery winners at the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring. Another 15 of 100 people missed their 1 p.m. appointments and 5 of 100 scheduled missed their 3 p.m. time slot, health officials said.
Montgomery County planned to vaccinate 400 people Thursday and 400 Friday, 100 during each appointment at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Lottery winners last week received a time, day and a number — 1 through 100 — for each of the time slots. They were told that because of time constraints, they would have to show up when they were scheduled.
Health officials will wait until the end of the day Friday to determine how to handle missed appointments, said spokeswoman Mary Anderson.
Those who did show up said they felt fortunate to have won the flu lottery.
“I feel very lucky,” said Joan Hartranft, 74, who said she gets a flu shot every year. “I was out of town and they called me on my cell phone. And that’s a big plus to have a cell phone.”
Hartranft was one of the first scheduled for a 1 p.m. appointment, but like many others slotted for that time, she arrived early to avoid delays.
Bill Janik, a nurse at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, brought his 8-month-old daughter, Sarah, to receive her shot.
“I didn’t register myself because I figured I might get one (vaccination) from my hospital,” said Janik.
Both Bill and Sarah Janik were eligible for the lottery because they live in Montgomery County and fall within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s high-risk group: children between the ages of 6 and 23 months, people who take care of children under 6 months old, adults over 65, pregnant women, health care workers and people with chronic medical conditions.
Health officials said they preferred not to hold a lottery, but the process appeared to be running smoothly.
“I don’t think it’s the best way,” Tillman said. “But it was the most fair system that would avoid the crowds, the waits and the traffic congestion.”