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Family struggles to get flu vaccine for child

November 4, 2009 3:03:12 PM PST
The H1N1 vaccine has been slow to reach many communities across America. One family from southwest suburban Bolingbrook has spent the last week-and-a-half driving from county to county trying to get the vaccine for their daughter who has Down syndrome.After their regular doctors said they couldn't help, the Osikowicz family has been trying to hunt down the H1N1 vaccine for nearly two weeks now. One week ago, they pulled 6-year-old Sarah out of school after a quarter of her classmates developed flu-like symptoms. Because, for Sarah, a severe flu could prove fatal.

"We're scared to death of her contracting this," said Dave Osikowicz, Sarah's father.

Six-year-old Sarah Osikowicz has Down Syndrome, a heart condition and uses a tube directly into her throat to breathe. It means viruses like H1N1 have a direct path to comprise her respiratory system. Sarah's family, like so many others in high-risk groups, have been anxious to get the H1N1 vaccine.

"I could never get through to speak to anyone in Will County," said Dave Osikowicz.

After being bounced from recorded message to recorded message at the Will County Health Department, dad Dave Osikowicz went online and learned Will County only offered the nasal mist version. Sarah needs the injectable kind. On Saturday, they learned it was being offered in Chicago at Wright College. They arrived at 11:30 a.m. to discover the day's supply had already been given out.

A week ago, Monday, they headed to a clinic in Kane County. But, the line extended for blocks, and the wait would have lasted hours.

"You're going to make pregnant women and children stand outside 2, 3, 4 hours to get a shot to protect 'em. I don't think it's well organized," said Dave Osikowicz.

Osikowicz called health departments from Janesville, Wisconsin, to Kankakee, Illinois. All the while, Sarah has stayed home from school. At the end of last week, they got back in the car and drove to Gurnee, twice in two days. Both times, Lake County's supply of the injectable vaccine ran out before they reached the front of the line. Terry Miller provides in-home nursing care for Sarah.

"Last year, when she had what you and I would consider a mild cold, she was on oxygen 24 hours a day for 7-10 days," said Miller.

Finally, Wednesday morning, Dave Osikowicz drove his daughter to a vaccination clinic in Kankakee. He is appreciative the health clinic worker looked the other way on residency, but now he worries about finding a place for Sarah to get the second dose of the H1N1 vaccine that she will need in just a few weeks.

"Judging by what's happened over the last week-and-a-half, two weeks we've been going through this, I suspect it's going to be just as difficult," said Osikowicz.

A spokesperson for the Will County Health Department told ABC7 they are sorry the family could not reach a live person to talk with, the department has been inundated with hundreds of phone calls and emails a day. Will County still does not have the formulation of injectable vaccination Sarah would need.

In fact, the health department spokesperson said, if Will County doesn't receive a new shipment of vaccine in the next 48 hours, they will have to start cancelling clinics next week.


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