Successful flu shot clinic is precursor to COVID clinic

While turnout was lower than expected, health officials, law enforcement show what future COVID clinic might look like.

High school nurse Linda Leonard, left, and Edgartown school nurse Nicole Barlett, right, helped out during the flu clinic Saturday. –Brian Dowd

The Island’s public flu shot clinic Saturday was a seamless success, and foreshadowed what a future COVID vaccine clinic might look like.

While the set up, organization, and execution of the clinic were a success, turnout was lower than expected. “We probably did about 400 doses, which isn’t bad, but it’s kind of disappointing; we were hoping to do more,” Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said. “Four hundred people is 400 more people vaccinated, so that’s a good thing.”

The clinic was set to give out 1,250 shots. Valley said she hoped the lower turnout was a result of the hospital offering flu shots for patients for so long. 

Aside from some hiccups setting up the staging areas, the clinic was a success, according to Valley. When the clinic opened in the morning, Valley said there was an initial rush of people getting their shots, before it slowed down throughout the morning. “It all worked well. People seemed happy coming through; they were fine with waiting when they had to wait, and kind of understood why we were doing it this way.” 

Valley said Island health officials will now look at where the need is for flu shots. “Is it to get the teachers vaccinated? Is it to maybe get a couple of smaller clinics? Maybe have vaccines available at the test site, if people want to get a shot while they’re getting a COVID test?” Valley said. “This is all a conversation to be had.”

Saturday’s flu clinic was also a precursor of what a COVID-19 vaccine clinic might look like.

“Assuming that we can get a good amount of vaccine and we have to get a lot of people through, this is exactly what I would like. Maybe not in the same location, but going to the staging areas, registering, and having people come through,” Valley said.

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High school nurse Linda Leonard and Edgartown School nurse Nicole Barlett, who were both helping with the clinic, told The Times it was now mandatory that all children and staff returning to public school must receive a flu shot by Dec. 31.

The clinic was a collaboration of West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs police, the Dukes County Sheriff’s department, Island boards of health members, Island health agents, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Island Health Care, the high school, and numerous volunteers.

Speaking to The Times by phone, Sheriff Robert Ogden praised the group effort. The sheriff’s department utilized a mobile command unit, to have a private technical channel to communicate with the various police departments and the flu clinic officials without bogging down the Island’s E911 communications system.

“It allows us to prepare for other emergency situations,” Ogden said. “Whether we have a large fire on the Island, an emergency, or some kind of mass public event, this allows us to control communications on the ground without burdening the 911 system.”

Ogden specifically thanked Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake, West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone, the Martha’s Vineyard Law Enforcement Council, and the many volunteers on the ground.

Ogden also said there was a great moment when a car at the clinic lost power, and an all-women group of volunteers pushed the car out of the way so it wasn’t blocking traffic. “It was a group of all-women volunteers that jumped in to push it out of the way,” Ogden said. “It was awesome.”