4 Ways to Manage the H1N1 Vaccination Rush

Advance planning, drive-through clinics, drills, smart community partnerships and outside-the-box thinking can help mass dispensing and vaccination clinic organizers be prepared for whatever the 2009-2010 flu season brings.

2. Practice Implementing Your Plan
Once a vaccination clinic plan has been written, it should be tested in real-time before it is implemented. Greenville Hospital System located in Greenville, S.C., conducted a mass vaccination clinic for its staff in 2008, vaccinating almost 2,900 employees with seasonal flu vaccine over a three-day period.

Lance Evans, emergency management coordinator for the system, says, “We did a practice run of the mass vaccination plan to ensure we would be ready when the pandemic flu strikes. Running this exercise gave us an opportunity to repair the issues we never knew existed. When we developed this exercise, we were anticipating the avian flu, but [we] have been able to simply plug H1N1 into the blanks, and it’s worked well.”

Greenville Hospital System used internal staff as patients and administration during its exercise and was able to solicit feedback on plans and implementation. The organization addressed issues such as triaging sick employees and the need for increased privacy for some during the administration of the vaccine. Lessons commonly learned through hands-on practice included lack of physical space availability, need for enlarged or improved signage, inefficient clinic or traffic flow, or necessary staff reassignment.

3. Partner With Other Community Stakeholders
A mass vaccination clinic need not be an isolated event organized by a single entity. Community partners can be used during the planning stages to identify resources, scout locations, build partnerships to coordinate marketing campaigns, and apply lessons learned from previous community events.

“I think it is important for outside agencies to be involved since these events tend to be quite large, both in physical size and number of resources needed,” says Doug Bryson, coordinator for the Spartanburg County (S.C.) Office of Emergency Management. “Emergency management has been involved in everything from participating in the planning of the event to coordinating agencies to assisting with traffic control and public safety issues.”

During mass vaccination and triage events, community partners can assist with security, site preparation, waste disposal, and additional manpower and resources.

4. Consultants Can Provide Additional Help
Outside evaluation teams can offer an unbiased evaluation of mass vaccination or triage clinic setup and conduct. Using an outside group also provides best practices based on experience gathered from other clinics. Greenville Hospital System hired a consultant to evaluate its mass vaccination clinic in 2008. Evans says, “A fresh set of eyes was able to look at the plan we developed. Instead of saying how the plan was supposed to work, the vendors gave us a clear objective look at the process.

A consultant can provide a synopsis of lessons learned through written documentation, photographs, evaluation of station and clinic efficiency. Often, it facilitates an after-action conference, where key personnel share feedback and observations of strengths and areas of improvement. This synopsis can be used for additional planning as well as to justify the time, energy, and finances committed to the project.

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