Douglas County’s first ever drive-thru flu clinic on Dec. 9 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds was declared a success by county health officials, even though they didn’t get as big of a turnout as organizers had hoped.
The Douglas Public Health Network partnered with several local agencies and volunteers, to conduct a mass dispensing exercise to find out if they were capable of vaccinating members of the public quickly to combat serious outbreaks of diseases. People getting the vaccinations could fill out a short form, drive into the tunnel under the grandstands, roll up their sleeve and get a quick flu shot.
The state contributed 2,000 doses of flu vaccine for the event and they ended up giving only about 80 vaccinations, but it was enough to give them a feel of how the process would work.
Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, the Douglas Public Health Officer, said the drill proved to be successful, but there were some issues that would need to be addressed.
“We think the drill went beautifully,” Dannenhoffer said.
But working in the cold could have been a problem had the temperature been 10 or 15 degrees lower and they’ll have to prepare for that. Also, if the crowds had been larger, driving through a dark tunnel could have been a safety issue.
“We need to really make sure we pay attention to safety, and with a lot more people, that could be a much bigger problem,” Dannenhoffer said.
A major part of the preparedness drill was to bring together the various agencies and groups throughout the county, and they were able to do that and also get about 50 volunteers to help.
Teresa Mutschler, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the Douglas Public Health Network organized the event. She said it was a good learning process, and that’s what they were hoping for. Even though not as many turned out to get the flu shots as they had hoped, it was a chance to go through the process without being overwhelmed by large crowds.
“We had the opportunity to practice the exercise without a lot of traffic, so it worked out really well,” Mutschler said.
The traffic was steady through the first several hours, but it dropped off significantly later in the afternoon.
Haleigh Leslie, from the Oregon Health Authority, is a liaison to health network on the state’s Health, Security and Preparedness Response Team and she was at the event to observe.
“I was really impressed with the great coordination from so many local and regional partners from the training leading up to the event as well as the operations for that day,” Leslie said. “It was great to see so many partners come together and be willing to serve the community. It was a worthwhile event.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, CHI Mercy Medical Center, SEARCH, Amedisys and Umpqua Community Health Center all participated, and several local stores donated items for the event.
Wayne Stinson, the emergency manager for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said he felt they learned a lot from the exercise.
“We’ve been talking about this for years, if we had to do any type of mass vaccination or mass dispensing of medication,” Stinson said. “I think we need to look at what we did and compare it to other models and try to determine what’s best for our local area given the demographics of a county our size.”
One goal was to see if the county could dispense the vaccines quickly in a drive-thru format, and Dannenhoffer said they were able to do that, with minimal waiting time.
“We wanted to see if when we did immunizations, we could rapidly get them into a state registry, and we did, and the last thing was to give as many flu shots as we could,” he said.
The organizers will continue to gather feedback from all the volunteers, and put together all the information before they meet to go over it.
“Bringing in strategic partners and doing a debriefing and discussion is important, and if it’s the model we want to use going forward, then we need to start planning for it,” Stinson said.
Organizers of the exercise plan to meet sometime after the first of the year, to look at future exercise plans, and they plan to have more of these events in the future.