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Mass vaccination: 650 shots in two hours

October 13, 2018

The hope was to give flu shots to 1,000 people in two hours. In the end, public health administered only 650 injections.

But organizers say the exercise wasn’t a failure.

On Thursday, Olmsted County Public Health tested its mass vaccination plan with hundreds of city and county employees. Throughout a two-hour period, masses of people flooded the RCTC Fieldhouse gym between 10 a.m. and noon.

They filed in from buses parked near the gravel lot at one end of the building, lined up to drop off pre-filled forms, and were directed to one of 24 stations giving out flu shots.

After being shuffled through the lines, people exited the field house on the other end and boarded buses back to their pickup sites.

The whole process took about 10 minutes, from bus to bus.

The goal of the exercise was to test the county’s training and give employees an idea of what an emergency mass vaccination would entail, said Amy Evans, the exercise director.

“For city and county employees, this is a great way to expose themselves to plans we’re working on,” Evans said. “They may be ushers or help in the future.”

Rochester hadn’t held a training day like Thursday’s in six years, said Evans, an emergency preparedness coordinator for Olmsted County Public Health.

At any point in time there could be an infectious disease outbreak, Evans said. In that case, it’s important to have a plan in place to mass-vaccinate the public, rather than relying on people to schedule visits with general practitioners, which could take days or weeks.

In an emergency situation, such as a mass outbreak of a deadly disease, public health might have to disseminate vaccinations or medicine to 1,200 people in an hour, Evans said.

The dissemination of flu vaccines to public workers was also a net win. Members of public health departments from Olmsted, Fillmore and Wabasha counties received shots, as did RCTC employees, public transit, and law enforcement workers.

Tom Olson, a social worker in Olmsted’s community services, said the mass vaccination was good practice for public health employees.

“Everybody’s really helpful and it’s very efficient,” he said. “I think it helps us understand what you have to do … if this were to happen.”

If Olmsted County needed help in a real emergency, Olson would likely help facilitate vaccinations in some way, he said.

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