News from the Field…

Indiana Epidemiology Newsletter
April 2008

Drive-through to Curb Flu

Karen S. Gordon
ISDH Field Epidemiologist, District 10

Pleasant autumn weekends in Indiana are commonly spent going to community fall festivals, watching a college football game, or working in the yard.  Public health officials at the Warrick County Health Department (WCHD) participated in a less leisurely activity the first two Saturdays in November 2007.  WCHD decided to offer flu shots to Warrick County residents on those weekends by using a method of delivery different from anything they had attempted in the past.  Plans were made to employ drive-through clinics as the primary means for dispensing their annual supply of seasonal flu vaccine.  Shots were available for $10 to anyone aged 12 years and older.  This strategy had been considered in a previous year but the delayed and uncertain shipment of vaccine prevented scheduling the clinics. 

On November 3, a drive-through clinic was held from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Boonville.  There had been some concern about whether or not the public would accept a vaccination given in an outdoor venue.  However, workers who arrived on that first Saturday morning were greeted by at least 2 dozen cars in line 45 minutes before the clinic was due to open.  The first hour of operation was extremely busy, with cars lining the entire length of the parking lot.  After the initial surge had received vaccine, the numbers remained steady.  During the 3 hours, vaccine was administered to 574 people.  Comments from patrons included that coming to the clinic was convenient since they were coming into town for other errands, they liked the ease of not having to get out of their vehicles, and some seemed to enjoy the novelty of it.  Those who seemed the most appreciative were drivers who transported one or more elderly family members who were wheelchair dependent or otherwise mobility challenged.  Some drivers elected not to receive the shot themselves but brought others who needed it.

On November 10, a second clinic was offered with similar objectives and the same time frame.  This clinic was set up in the parking area adjacent to the Apple Center in Newburgh.  Once again, drivers navigated the stations, occupants rolled down their windows, rolled up their sleeves, and 563 people received their best protection for the upcoming flu season. 

The WCHD envisioned the clinics as a low-cost, easy way of providing protection against influenza to the public, requiring less staff time and resources.  Overall, 1,137 people received flu vaccine during the WCHD’s drive-through clinics.  This exceeded the original projections for delivery of 500 doses at each of the 2 clinic sites.

Additionally, the WCHD used the opportunity to conduct a full-scale mass immunization exercise.  The goal of the exercise, titled FLU- X, was to test the WCHD’s notification, communication, command, and response procedures including, in this case, the rapid administration of vaccine in a public health emergency.  The scenario for this exercise was pandemic influenza.  Other local agencies participating in the drill included the Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.

Sharon James, Kathy Manning, and Cecelia Scott, WCHD public health nurses, led the immunization effort.  A group of volunteer nurses assisted with giving injections.  Carmen Downing directed the administrative functions, particularly those involving registered volunteers who aided with records completion.  WCHD Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Frank Hijuelos, was the event coordinator.  All were pleased with the success of their venture.

In the Celebration of Leadership held on March 18, 2008, the WCHD was nominated in the Project Division of the Health & Social Service Category for the drive-through flu clinic project.  The Celebration of Leadership is Leadership Evansville’s awards ceremony to recognize the servant leaders in the community and region.

The author acknowledges Sharon James and Frank Hijuelos for their contributions to this article.