Solutions to Vaccine Demand
November 16, 2009
Local health departments (LHDs) have been thrust into a new role during the current mass vaccination campaign—crowd control. Handling the sometimes overwhelming demand for H1N1 flu vaccine has called for creative planning.
Several LHDs have provided innovative practices for dealing with the logistics of maneuvering snaking lines of people through vaccine clinics and delivering the vaccine first to those who need it most.
On a day when their vaccine clinic was to start in the afternoon, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) was faced with a lineup of hundreds of people by five in the morning. The CDPH borrowed a solution to this problem from the Disney theme parks and distributed tickets assigning numbers to vaccine customers. Ticketholders were asked to return later in order to reduce crowd numbers at the vaccine facility.
On Nov. 11, Suzet McKinney, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response at the CDPH, reported: "We are using city college facilities as our public vaccination sites, so the presence of so many people in line was affecting the students'' ability to get to their classes and the ability of the college''s faculty and staff to conduct the business of the school…The 1200 numbers that we gave out were based on our projection of the number of vaccinations that could reasonably be done in a five hour time frame."
According to McKinney, the "Disney" concept was "purely creative thinking at its best."
Another LHD chose to rely more heavily on technology in order to handle the crowd numbers—and managed to keep waiting time down to just five minutes by setting up appointments online. Christine M. Coleman, Director of Home Care and Public Health in Marshalltown, Iowa, wrote: "We have successfully implemented a secure Web site scheduling program for people who qualify for H1N1 vaccine to sign up for private clinics. We …have never run out of vaccine since we only open enough appointments for people that we have vaccine for. There is no unproductive time for our staff, and we have guaranteed that those in the highest of the high risk groups have been vaccinated."
Those eligible for the vaccine are identified and contacted via e-mail distribution lists for school superintendents, school nurses, and businesses—as well as a database listing over 100 day cares with infants under the age of six months. Individuals are contacted by e-mail and snail mail and are encouraged to sign up online for a vaccine appointment.
For some, the H1N1 vaccination campaign has also created increased demand for the seasonal flu vaccine. Louise Rice, Senior Director of Public Health Nursing with the Cambridge Public Health Department (CHD) in Massachusetts, found that "attention to swine flu has made [the public] more aware of, and careful about, all kinds of flu."
In six flu clinics run between Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 17, the [CHD''s] seasonal flu clinics received more people than during typical year-long flu season—including first time seasonal flu vaccine recipients, and some customers who had traveled from as far as Vermont and New York.
As a result, CHD had to postpone any future flu clinics. Rice wrote: "To those reading this who have not yet done seasonal flu clinics, be prepared for doubling the demand and diminishing supply."
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