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Ryan Rettig, right, walks with fellow 16-year-old Robert Wanek, both of Breckenridge, into the H1N1 flu vaccination clinic for pregnant women held Monday at Atonement Lutheran Church in south Fargo. (Michael Vosburg/The Forum)

Activists asked to leave Fargo flu vaccination clinic

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO -- Two teenage political activists were asked to leave an H1N1 vaccination clinic Monday in Fargo after handing out literature to the pregnant women waiting in line.

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Fargo Cass Public Health sponsored the clinic Monday afternoon for only pregnant women, a priority group for the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine. Officials gave out 140 of about 1,000 available doses.

It was Cass County's third H1N1 clinic, but the first in which officials dealt with an incident that might have disrupted the clinic by possibly deterring those seeking vaccination.

Robert Wanek and Ryan Rettig, both 16 and of Breckenridge, said they wanted to educate the pregnant women about the risks of the H1N1 vaccine. The boys are members of Minnesota's chapter of We Are Change, a grassroots political activist group.

More than a dozen pregnant women received handouts from Wanek and Rettig before Fargo Cass Public Health officials and Fargo police asked the boys to leave.

One woman waiting in line left after she read what the boys handed her. Other women were upset because the source of the boys' information was not listed.

Health officials said Wanek and Rettig misrepresented themselves by saying they were members of the media but then distributing the fliers.

The boys said they weren't trying to deter women from being vaccinated.

"We're not trying to scare - we're just trying to inform them of the risks and benefits so they can weigh them and make their best educated decision," Rettig said.

Fargo Cass Public Health Director Ruth Bachmeier said clinic participants receive information prior to being vaccinated.

"We're providing the information that the CDC and the health department provided us," Bachmeier said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H1N1 flu shots aren't proven to harm pregnant women or their babies, and the risks for the H1N1 vaccine are the same as with a seasonal flu shot.

The remainder of Monday's clinic went smoothly. About 45 women were in line when the clinic began, but the lines tapered off within 15 minutes and remained that way until the clinic ended at 6 p.m.

Area health care providers have vaccinated pregnant patients as H1N1 doses become available, but Fargo Cass Public Health wanted to give the women an opportunity to be vaccinated sooner.

"Some women were a month out from seeing their doctor again ... so we didn't want to make them wait another month before getting the vaccine," said Theresa Orecchia, Fargo Cass Public Health public information officer.

Upcoming H1N1 vaccination clinics

* What: Clay County FluMist vaccination clinic

* Who: Children ages 2 to 4; caregivers of infants younger than 6 months; health care providers and emergency medical service personnel who provide direct patient care.

* When: 4 to 7 p.m. today

* Where: St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, 601 15th Ave. N., Moorhead

* Info: FluMist is only available to people ages 2 to 49 without chronic health conditions.

* What: Fargo VA Medical Center H1N1 vaccination clinic

* Who: Veterans who are enrolled patients, ages 24 to 64 with a chronic medical condition such as asthma or diabetes.

* When: 1 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday

* Where: third-floor auditorium, Fargo VA Medical Center, 2101 Elm St. N.

* Info: Call the VA Medical Center flu line at (888) 686-0479.

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