Drive-through flu shots a snap

Convenience appeals to drivers, emergency teams get training

November 04, 2007|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

Driving through a maze of orange cones at the Ripken Stadium parking lot, hundreds of people lowered their windows, rolled up their sleeves and got a flu vaccination from a nurse without leaving the comfort of their heated cars.

In addition to providing a convenience to patrons, the drive-through operation also served as an emergency response training opportunity for the county Health Department.

"We do it as a bioterrorism drill," said Tina Regester, department spokeswoman, before the event. "We keep track of how many folks are coming in, so if a true emergency occurs, we can operate the same way as a drive-through clinic."

In the event of an emergency, a drive-through would be a quick way to administer mass vaccinations or distribute medicine to a large number of people, health officials said.

The drill attracted health officials from out of state. Cort Massey, an administrator with the health department in New Castle County, Del., said he came to see whether such a program would be feasible in his community.

"If there is a public health situation where there is a contagious or communicable disease, this keeps individuals separated," he said of the drive-through format. "One of the benefits is that you can vaccinate a person without getting into one large room, where, if it's communicable, it increases the probability of spreading the disease."

Harford Health Department staff wore bright-orange mesh vests and directed the traffic flow into four lanes marked by cones.

Front and center amid the action, Kurt Seetoo, a county epidemiologist, bundled up in a fleece jacket, directed traffic with a radio in one hand and a walkie-talkie in the other.

"We treat this as an emergency," said Seetoo, who was the "incident commander" of the four-hour event. "It's to oversee the operation and see the way things are functioning and see how we are with the supplies."

Harford County started offering drive-through clinics for flu shots three years ago. Since then, the number of residents receiving shots has increased each year. Health officials expected about a 1,000 Friday.

Business was brisk. From the moment a motorist pulled into the stadium parking lot, the process took about five minutes. The recipient filled out a medical consent form, paid $20 and dangled an arm out the window. The nurses swabbed the upper arm with a cotton ball, injected the vaccine and applied a Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny bandage.

"They're quick," Lisa Pomraning, a White Hall resident, said as she sat inside a sport utility vehicle. "It took like a minute. We didn't even have time to fill the papers out."

She returned to the clinic this year after trying it last fall because she said it was easier for her children and her paralyzed grandmother, who wouldn't have to get out of the car.

madison.park@baltsun.com

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