Emergency management injects health into rehearsal





No one likes to get shots, but Saturday people received flu shots in the comfort of their own vehicles. The Finney County Health Department's drive-thru shot clinic assisted in putting patients at ease and also served as a practice run of sorts.

"We're doing this to be prepared in the event that there is ever a pandemic outbreak," Michael Paz-Torres, emergency management coordinator said. "What we're doing is rehearsing a plan we already have in place, should that ever occur."

The health department along with Finney County Emergency Management and Finney County EMS offered the clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the north parking lot of Garden City High School. Paz-Torres said it was the first time that a drive-thru clinic has been offered in the area.

"They go through their stations, pre-vaccination, vaccination and monitoring, if needed, so we try to make it as fluid and as easily accessible for the patient as possible," Tiffany Landa, registered nurse with the Finney County Health Department said. "We're trying to access as many people as we can, as many patients as we can, in the most efficient and timely fashion and as safely as possible, of course, so we have different checkpoints."

At the first checkpoint, or station, people were given a questionnaire to fill out. This gave nurses the opportunity to screen them for any health conditions prior to receiving their shots.

"If they've had a fever in the last 48 hours, if they're currently sick, they can't get the vaccination," Paz-Torres said.

Once past the first station, people were directed to one of two pods. One pod was set up to accommodate adults while the other was set up to vaccinate children.

"The population of 65 and over is getting a recommended high-dose vaccination," Landa said. "In the other pod, we have it set up so that nursing staff can give shots to children under the age of 12, so we have our pediatric doses here. Kids aged six to 35 months get a smaller dosage than adults do."

A nurse from Stevens County and a nurse from Kearny County volunteered to help the local health department administer the shots.

After receiving their shots, people who had never had a vaccination were sent to the final station to be observed for reactions to the shots.

Landa said the most severe reaction from a flu shot is for someone to go into anaphylactic shock.

"The most drastic is an anaphylactic reaction, which means the throat will start to close and the patient will feel like (he or she) can't breathe. Itchy, local reactions are also very common," he said.

She said if that were to occur, the nurses on hand would administer medication to help turn the symptoms around, but an ambulance also was on standby Saturday, in case further treatment was needed.

Landa said most vaccines take about two weeks to take full effect.

"So we recommend the early vaccination," she said.

The flu season generally runs mid-September through spring, but Landa said the health department sees the most flu cases in December and January. She said the vaccinations given Saturday will last throughout this flu season.

Shots were $25 for adults and $10 for children, and were free for senior citizens with Medicare.

County Commissioner Dave Jones got a vaccination, as did the EMS crew and some of the nurses from the health department. Paz-Torres said, in total, 70 people received vaccinations Saturday.

In terms of rehearsing the plan, he said a few kinks were discovered but for the most part the clinic went on without a hitch.

"We found that, overall, the Finney County Health Department and support agencies are prepared to respond to an event within the county," Paz-Torres said.

He said the organizations plan to conduct another drive-thru flu shot clinic in September of next year.

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