For Immediate Release
October 14, 2009
Contacts: Beth Cavanaugh, 301-405-4625 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mass Vaccination Drill Both Practice and Practical
By Monette Austin Bailey
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland intends to vaccinate more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff against the seasonal flu this Thursday (Oct. 15) to test its preparedness for large-scale outbreaks.
Medical personnel from the university Health Center, other staff and volunteers from around the university, as well as representatives from county and state health departments, will set up stations in Ritchie Coliseum from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. to administer the free shots. The university is designated to serve as a point of distribution for the Prince George's County Health Department, should an infectious disease outbreak occur and require mass medication or vaccination.
More than 1,000 people have received the seasonal flu vaccine at the center since school started. The Health Center reports seeing more than 800 cases of flu as of Oct. 2, many of which were probable H1N1, since seasonal flu season hasn't yet begun. The university expects to receive vaccinations for H1N1 soon.
"We wanted to test the center's ability to organize and connect with community and campus partners to administer prophylactic therapy to a large number of persons in the university community in case of a serious emergency," says Dr. Sacared Bodison, director of the health center. "We also felt this fall was an ideal time since we wanted to immunize a large number with the seasonal vaccine. We settled on a time frame then extrapolated how many persons we could serve during that time period."
Jeffrey Herrmann, an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering and the Institute for Systems Research in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, used his operations research in public health preparedness planning to help organizers make sure that there will be adequate staff at the event. His models provide valuable estimation information for making decisions.
"Two of the most important issues are related to the capacity ... how many people can we process? Another important issue is related to the congestion or the queuing. How long do people have to wait in line?"
There will be 16 inoculation stations and approximately 45 volunteers will assist in this area, keeping people moving.
"It's neat to be able to have other departments help us. More wanted to be involved than we could use," says Bodison.
Though it is aimed at the campus community, Bodison says if others walk into the drill after seeing a line at Ritchie, they will not be turned away.
After the drill, Herrmann says that the Health Center will be able to see how well the model worked. "The point of our model is so that the center can create and update their own without relying on outside experts to advise them," he says.
He credits Montgomery County's Advanced Practice Center as a valuable partner in helping his team understand what the public health community needs and getting the word out to other agencies about the software he developed. - Listen to an interview with Prof. Herrmann about the exercise.
Kelly Kesler, the health center's assistant director of health promotion, says that this live simulation is rare in a university setting. Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs, says that she hasn't heard of such a drill and is looking forward to seeing how it goes.
The drill isn't the only opportunity to receive seasonal flu vaccines. The injectable and FluMist options are available at the Health Center. For more information, visit http://www.health.umd.edu.
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