Between 1,000 and 1,100 injections immunizing Vineyarders against this season’s expected strains of influenza were administered last Thursday in the gym at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, or in parking lots outside. Some clients also received a tetanus booster shot or a one-time inoculation against pneumonia.
This year, clients were at first advised to get their shots in one of the six drive-through lanes, three behind the gym and three in the school bus parking lot along the athletic fields. However, according to public information officer James Weiss, the cold wind proved troublesome for those administering the vaccine outdoors — blowing away paperwork, tipping over supplies, and numbing the nurses’ fingers — and there were lines of cars long enough to require a wait of 15 to 20 minutes.
According to West Tisbury health officer John Powers, checkers at the staging areas in Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury were instructed to tell some drivers to park in the Performing Arts Center lot and take the long walk down the corridor to the gym, where there was almost no waiting, except for the walk itself.
By 10 am, the bus lot lanes were closed, and the outside immunizations continued in the lot next to the gym. As inside traffic diminished, inside shooters were moved outside, both to speed up the process and allow nurses to thaw their fingers after shorter shifts.
While there was more waiting than organizers had planned, the event went smoothly and accomplished its goals, according to Dr. Weiss.
Public health and public safety officials, along with emergency management personnel, regard the flu clinics as drills for more serious emergencies requiring much larger-scale immunizations (such as a bird flu pandemic, for example).
The flu clinics are studied in detail by the agencies that stage them, and this year there was a team of observers from off-Island.
There will be a meeting of the various components of the clinic next week, and the outside observers will report in January.