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Free flu shot exercise tests preparedness

Just in case ...

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To test the Kenai Peninsula’s level of preparedness should a bioterrorist event ever occur, emergency managers will conduct a mass flu immunization at two sites Friday.

Free flu shots will be given at the National Guard Armory in Kenai and in the parking lot of Soldotna Sports Center.

Shots will be given to people of all ages at the armory on South Forest from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and to people 18 years old and older at the sports center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to Scott Walden, Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency manager.

“We’re conducting this as a bioterror exercise,” Walden said.

Members of the Civil Air Patrol will pick up the flu vaccine in Anchorage and fly it to Kenai Municipal Airport where it will be handed over to the Kenai police and fire departments for delivery to the armory.

To simulate the initial immunization site being overrun by people wanting a shot, a secondary site will be opened at the sports center, Walden said.

“This will be one of the first drive-through sites in the state,” he said.

A tent will be set up in the parking lot with one lane of traffic being routed to each side of the tent. People will be given their flu shot without needing to leave their vehicles.

Members of the 49th Military Police Brigade will help direct traffic at the site. Soldotna police and Central Emergency Services also will assist at the sites and each site will have a medical officer and a clinic supervisor, as well as people to help with registration and evaluation.

“All together, we’ve got 150 people helping with this exercise,” Walden said.

He said even people who already have received their flu shots should plan to participate in the exercise to test the borough’s readiness.

“We hope to get 500 people per hour between the two sites,” Walden said.

Initially, the exercise was to have taken place Nov. 2, but adequate amounts of vaccine were not available then.

“It wasn’t so much due to a shortage, they just couldn’t get it here in time,” Walden said.

“When it did arrive — soon after the 2nd — it was about 1,000 immunizations short, and we decided to wait a couple weeks and reschedule,” he said.

“A byproduct of this preparedness testing process is that the community gets free flu shots,” Walden said.

The exercise will be observed by people from outside the central Kenai Peninsula area to detect any gaps there might be in the system, he said.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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