updated 10/15/2004 3:01:34 PM ET 2004-10-15T19:01:34

Thousands of callers seeking flu vaccine overwhelmed a telephone reservation system created to eliminate long lines at public clinics.

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In a one-hour period Thursday morning, the hot line set up by the Onondaga County Health Department received 5,800 calls. Employees working the phones were unable to keep up as the surge continued throughout the day. Some callers were put on hold indefinitely; others were cut off. At several points, the system stopped taking calls.

“It was beyond our wildest dreams it was going to be this crazy,” department spokeswoman Kathy Mogle said.

The reservation system was created to avert long lines of mostly elderly people seeking flu shots at public clinics in Eckerd drugstores. The clinics have stopped serving walk-ins.

Demand for the vaccine has soared since Chiron Corp., the maker of half the nation’s flu vaccine, announced last week it will not supply any this season because of problems at its plant in Britain.

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