Flu clinic for all, part of Nov. 10 drill
The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School gymnasium will become an "Emergency Dispensing Site," or EDS, on Friday, Nov. 10, when a large contingent of health-care and emergency service personnel from many Island agencies will conduct a mass flu clinic for all Vineyard residents who want the shots.
"It's a large, collaborative group effort - an Island effort," said John Powers, health agent for West Tisbury. The clinic from, 9 am to 2 pm, will serve as a practice drill for a pandemic or event that would require many people to be inoculated at once, he said.
"Homeland Security encouraged us to do this," Mr. Powers said. The local agencies thought the flu clinic would provide a unique opportunity to conduct such a drill, he said. The federal agency may provide some reimbursements for advertising and possibly an after-the-fact grant to cover some of the costs.
"We were way ahead of the curve," Mr. Powers added of the yearlong regional planning effort. The date was set a long time ago, he said, but the organizers learned just recently that there would be a delay in vaccine shipments. However, with loans of vaccine from off-Island partner towns, the Vineyard clinic will be able to go ahead as planned, with enough vaccine to serve 2,500 people.
A smaller all-Island flu clinic was held last year at the high school where about 800 people received vaccines in about four hours, according to Juleann VanBelle, health promotion coordinator for Visiting Nurse Services. She is organizing the nurses and medical staff for the clinic. She said she is encouraged that about 1,500 people have already taken the registration forms that are available in the town halls, libraries, and councils on aging. Having those in hand should help speed up the registration process, she said.
With the 2,500 vaccine doses, Ms. VanBelle said Wednesday, "I feel confident we can serve that many."
Collaborating in the clinic are all six town health boards, Martha's Vineyard Hospital, the Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA) and Visiting Nurse Services (VNS), the Wampanoag Tribe and the councils on aging. More than 30 nurses from health agencies and the schools will be giving vaccine injections throughout the day.
"It's the most we've ever had," Ms. VanBelle said. "I think we're going to move people through quickly."
Others providing services for the clinic include the Police Incident Command Unit for parking and traffic control, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, some doctors and about 100 other volunteers taking registrations and doing other tasks. The American Red Cross will provide lunch and snacks for the workers and Island Transport will provide busing. Also on hand will be an information officer, a communication officer, and the new Martha's Vineyard Medical Reserve Corps.
The corps will sign up residents who would like to provide either medical or non-medical services during an emergency situation. The corps was recently formed and is federally recognized.
Bus transportation to the clinic is a new aspect of the program. "I hope people would consider taking the bus instead of driving," Ms. VanBelle said.
Both Ms. VanBelle and Mr. Powers said they have been pleased with the good cooperation among the clinic planners. "I'm very impressed by it," she said. "Everyone sees they have a part."
Some residents have complained that they would rather get their flu shots in their own towns as in the past, Ms. VanBelle admitted, adding, "Doing things differently is hard for everyone, but the organizers are really committed to doing it this way."
Mr. Powers also said this larger event should actually be faster and more efficient than the local clinics, which usually had only two nurses and long lines. "We're trying to change people's mindsets," he said. "This should move along."
The clinic organizers are encouraging people not to all come early, but to spread out their visits throughout the day to avoid a long wait. Since the high school will be closed for Veterans Day, the entire parking lot will be available. Large yellow billboards and parking attendants will direct drivers.
The flu shots will be free for people 50 and over, to first-response providers, pregnant women and people with certain chronic illnesses that have been treated by a physician.
The schedule of pickups by the Island Transport buses for the event is as follows: Edgartown - depart at 10 am and noon from the Edgartown Elementary School; Oak Bluffs - depart 10 am and 12:30 pm from the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority; Up Island - depart 10:30 am and noon from the West Tisbury Public Safety building; Tisbury - depart 9 am from Havenside, 9:10 am from Greenough House, 9:30 am from the Tisbury Senior Center and repeating the same route at 11:30, 11:40 and noon. The Vineyard Transit Authority No. 1 bus will also pick up people along that route at Hillside and Woodside elderly housing complexes.