Health department offering free flu shots, preparing for emergencies
by Jason Lowrey
Sep 26, 2013 | 1921 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Oct. 3, the Bartow County Health Department will offer free flu shots to the community as it undergoes an emergency preparedness drill.

Scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in the Cartersville Civic Center, the event will offer 2,000 shots on a first-come, first-serve basis. The shots are available to Bartow County residents 6 months and older at no cost.

In addition to offering shots to the public, the clinic will serve as an emergency management exercise.

“We’ve been doing planning for years, and we’ve gotten our plans to where we want to switch over to do more operational studies and see how we actually implement these plans,” said Northwest Georgia Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Shaun Brand. “The way that worked out, Bartow County volunteered to host it and Rome District 1-1 is going to be doing support for that. ... It was a logical conclusion. ...

“We have these plans we work on. This is actually putting boots on the ground and seeing how that plan plays out.”

October’s clinic, Brand added, will be the first large exercise since the state was preparing for a possible H1N1 outbreak. The normal planning time for such an exercise, Brand said, was one year. For the October drill it took nearly half the time, he said. In addition to the public health departments, other agencies involved are the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, Bartow County Fire Department, Cartersville Fire Department, Cartersville Medical Center, Bartow Emergency Medical Service and Bartow County Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s been phenomenal in Bartow County. I was so proud to be a part of it just from the district standpoint because between the first initial planning conference and the final planning conference — which was the 19th — the local partners there in Bartow County [have] had tremendous support for it. So it has been amazing to see this come together,” he said.

According to a press release for the flu clinic, those interested in receiving a flu shot must read an information sheet and sign a consent form. Both items can be found on the Northwest Georgia Public Health website, www.nwgapublichealth.org. Forms are available in English and Spanish.

Bartow County Health Department Nurse Manager Cathy Green said patients will be able to ask questions while they are at the clinic. She said 12 stations will be set up inside the civic center in order to process patients as quickly as possible. With 2,000 shots on hand, Green urges Bartow County residents to get out early if they want a free shot.

“With 12 stations set up, if clients show up, we could potentially be out by noontime. That’s how come I’m definitely encouraging people to come early. We won’t start ’til 9 o’clock. We’ll have to get the vaccine together. The vaccine won’t be delivered until that morning,” she said.

The vaccine delivery will be one part of the emergency preparedness drill, said Brand.

“The one thing I want to get out of this exercise is to test our mass vaccination plan and the communication and security aspects of it. Because if we do have an emergency like this we want to be able to safely transport the vaccine, the medication, and we want to have a good communication plan between the different sites and agencies working on wherever this is going on,” he said. “So I’d like to see where our gaps are with any of the communications, the security in transportation and those aspects.

“Because the security in transportation plan solely is developed to secure the vaccine from point A to point B, what I want to see is, do we have our communication channels right? Do we have our routes right? Do we have the right idea of how much security we would need to have on transportation?”

The shots available during the clinic are trivalent shots designed to protect against the three flu strains predicted to be most prevalent this year. If Bartow residents are unable to get a shot at the free clinic, the BCHD now has the same shot available for $25. A quadrivalent flu shot costing $35 and a quadrivalent nasal spray will be available later this year.

For more information on the free clinic, call the BCHD at 770-382-1920.