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Drive-by Flu Shot Clinics See Success in Districts

September 4, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 29, 2012

In what world are drive-by shots a good thing?

In the world of public health, of course, where people are urged to drive by and arm themselves against the flu at their local drive-by flu shot clinic.

County health departments in North Georgia Health District 1-2, based in Dalton, have successfully conducted these clinics each fall since 2007.

Almost 2,000 North Georgians were vaccinated and are now better prepared to face the flu season due to clinics held this year in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties.

"Not only do these clinics serve the purpose of making it easy and convenient for people to get their flu shots, but these are also opportunities for each health department to coordinate with community partners in testing their ability to quickly dispense medications in a widespread public health crisis such as pandemic influenza," said Marie Smith, RN, BSN, district immunization and child health coordinator.

Vaccinations were administered within just a few minutes of participants' arrival at each clinic. The efficient operation of each clinic was greatly enhanced by the use of state-of-the-art mobile mass vaccination stations, each of which can be used to serve as many as 5,000 people before restocking is necessary.

Health officials throughout the district continue to remind the public of the importance of flu vaccination and are encouraging residents to get vaccinated. Regular flu vaccine is still available at each county health department in the district, and in all counties except Murray, the high-dose flu vaccine is available for those age 65 and older.

Several miles south in LaGrange Health District 4-0, the Spalding County Health Department participated in a 24-hour mass fatality/point of dispensing exercise. The purpose was to evaluate Spalding County's point of distribution plan that would be activated to distribute required goods and services in response to a public health event.

For their response role, Spalding County Health Department employees established a drive-thru flu vaccination clinic for county residents. The drive-thru clinic, along with other community partner support agencies, operated the full 24 hours, with 160 people working in shifts during the 24-hour period. The health department was able to deliver free flu vaccination to the public through a grant received from the Hospital Authority. A total of 672 people received flu shots during the exercise.

"Being able to give free flu vaccine made it seem more like it would in a pandemic situation to us," said County Nurse Manager Cynthia Tidwell. "We were able to use similar forms and refine our dispensing plan based on what worked and what didn't work instead of the added pressure of forms and billing."

Spalding residents were lined up at 8:30 a.m. waiting to get their flu vaccine.

"We had a lot of people tell us how much they appreciated the convenience of not having to leave their cars and how quick and easy it was," said Tidwell. The longest time it took anyone to enter and make it all the way through the line was five minutes and forty five seconds.

Inside the health department, staff from multiple agencies were working in the county's backup Emergency Operations Center (EOC). It was an opportunity for them to test the EOC to determine if it would meet their capability and functionality requirements for a real emergency.

For staff that had not worked during an emergency, the exercise was a great training opportunity to prepare them for the demands of working together during an emergency while also maintaining daily operations of county services.