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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Ryan Cook gets a vaccine from Cecily Light as his mother, Catherine Cook, holds him during an H1N1 vaccination clinic at the Bountiful Regional Center Wednesday, Dec. 9, in North Salt Lake.

NORTH SALT LAKE — I didn't feel a thing.

I was aware the nurse held a syringe with an inch-long needle above my upper arm. I saw her arm move down, linger and move back up.

Just like that, I was vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, what most of us call swine flu.

I grabbed my Dum Dum Pop, apple-flavored with gum inside, thanked the nurses and left my seat at the Bountiful Regional Center for the next person.

By this time, a line was starting to form inside the center as ticket-holding residents awaited their turn. Some were children, anxiously holding parents' hands. Some were adults, like myself, not minding needles so much.

Within minutes of arriving at Davis County Health Department's mass vaccination clinic, residents sit down, get a shot or nasal spray and are on their way with a lollipop.

That's what the public sees, and is likely all they care about when they're standing in line and it's freezing outside.

But Wednesday, the Deseret News went behind the scenes to see what it takes to make a mass vaccination clinic work, Davis County style.

Since October, the Davis County Health Department has run about 20 mass clinics so that up to 1,000 people an hour can receive vaccinations.

What now appears to be a well-oiled machine has taken months of planning and a few practices to get to this point.

It turns out running a clinic is not as simple as just grabbing a couple nurses and some vials of vaccine.There's the logistics of receiving, cataloging, storing and distributing vaccine. You need a location with enough parking and enough space inside to funnel people through in an orderly fashion. You need trained nurses and health aides with some customer service skills so people can have the most enjoyable experience possible.

You need needles in different sizes and vaccines in different presentations for different age groups. You need alarm systems, traffic cones, security, emergency medical technicians, hand sanitizer, clipboards and candy. Currently, the health department has it all, including boxes containing 10,000 Dum Dums.

For the past few years, the health department has been using bioterrorism funding to build up its supplies of masks, needles, syringes and various supplies.

Before 2009, the department had planned on using those supplies to combat an avian flu, which had appeared to make some strides in spreading from animals to humans but hasn't launched into epidemic levels the way H1N1 has during 2009.

"When this hit, we were well-prepared," said Brian Hatch, Davis County's epidemiologist. "We focused on durables. We were established and ready to go.

That's unlike other health departments around the nation.

Hatch said medical items began running in short supply because demand spiked when H1N1 loomed as a threat.

By the time you read this story, about 50,000 Davis County residents will have been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, using about one-third of Davis County's H1N1 vaccine allocation from the Utah Health Department.

Wednesday, Hatch ordered 8,200 vaccine doses for clinics the county health department will be running in the coming week.

But the county isn't relying on bioterrorism funding, or even its own budget, to run the clinics. So far every expense — the nurses, vaccines, rental of the Davis Conference Center and the purchase of all supplies — is being paid for with $1.1 million in federal grant money.

Davis County Health Department director Lewis Garrett says the funding has been adequate for the county's needs, and his department is striving to make the most of it.

For example, Garrett decided to hold only two clinics in the coming week, Dec. 17 and 19, to save money. Some weeks have demanded four clinics and the health department is prepared to run up to six if necessary.

It's all in the plans.

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