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Drive-up vaccination program tested on soldiers

Union Leader Correspondent

September 14. 2013 9:16PM
Sgt. Joe Reed gets a flu shot from volunteer Kim Galbraeth during a drive-up flu clinic for Army National Guard members in Hillsborough on Saturday. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

HILLSBOROUGH - Members of the Army National Guard in Hillsborough received annual flu shots without leaving the comfort of their cars Saturday as the Department of Health and Human Services practiced its first drive-up vaccination clinic.

Under guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, each state needs to be prepared to offer vaccinations or antidotes to threats such as anthrax if an emergency situation arises, according to Vicki Carrier of the DHHS Emergency Services Unit. One of the ways the department is exploring to deliver emergency medicine as quickly as possible, and to as many people as it can, is through drive-up clinics.

"We must be prepared to safely and efficiently be able to get everyone in the state treated in case of an emergency," said Carrier. "We have a population of 1.3 million people in the state, and that's a large population to provide for."

On Saturday, the department partnered with the Army National Guard's 744th Forward Supply Company in Hillsborough to hold its first drive-up clinic, which allowed soldiers to sit in their cars while they went through registration and vaccination.

"We wanted to practice in small numbers," said Carrier. "And the Guard gave us a captive audience."

Each year, the soldiers are required to get a flu shot, according to Maj. Mike Terry, and since this was a drill weekend, it made sense to bring the soldiers in for the test run of the clinic. Terry said he was happy to give DHHS an opportunity to test the clinic, but said it was also good training for some of the soldiers who participated in administering the vaccines.

The challenge for the department was to get as many people through the clinic as quickly and safely as possible.

"The biggest task is controlling traffic so we don't have accidents," said Carrier. "Our goal is to not have bottlenecks at any time so we can keep things moving."

Each soldier was registered upon entering the line by having his or her driver's license scanned into a hand-held device. A bar code carrying the person's identity was then affixed to the soldier's arm. That enabled volunteers at the vaccination station to keep track of who was getting the shots.

The bar codes also help the department keep track of the clinic's efficiency, so tweaks can be made to improve delivery, such as by adding personnel to the registration line or increasing the number of vaccination stations.

In all, the department was prepared to give 75 vaccinations on Saturday, and the troops seemed happy with the clinic.

"We're fortunate to be able to work with a very special population," said Carrier. "They're very good-natured, and we haven't had an accident."

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