ATHENS, Ala. – Over 500 people drove through the Athens Sportsplex to be vaccinated by the Limestone County Health Department on Tuesday. For the Alabama Department of Public Health, this was dual purpose: It’s also how they’ll treat the masses when a COVID vaccine is released.
The Northern District of the ADPH is working against a tight deadline to vaccinate as many people as possible as fast as possible before flu season strikes.
“We are trying to do all 12 counties before October is over so we can have the vaccine given out before the COVID comes so we can be ready for both,” said ADPH Infection Prevention and Control Nurse supervisor Pamela Wales.
Because of the added risk, public health clinics with the northern district have decided to administer the shot to anyone who wants it.
“No insurance you show up, no money you can show up and you’re going to get a flu shot,” said Limestone County Clinic Supervisor Daphne McElyea.
Drive-thru clinics like the one in Limestone County are not just to get citizens ready for the impending flu season. They’re test runs for the ADPH to learn the fastest ways to mass immunize for the coming months, when a COVID vaccine is found.
“We are doing drive-thru clinics in all of my 12 counties, at least 1 day in each county so that our staff can get well-acclimated to any potential when we get the COVID vaccine to see what do we need to do, how is best to run this, how can we adapt to see the most people at the most time once that vaccine is available,” said ADPH Northern District Head Administrator Judy Smith.
Limestone County’s flu drive-thru is a premiere location, which means they’ve had more than 5 years doing these drives successfully.
“In fact, in doing the Limestone clinic, we’ve actually brought in some clinic supervisors and nurses from other counties to view the process because…when we can see the process, we can take it and tweak it for their particular facility,” Smith said.
In an effort to save time and prep for mass vaccination they’re experimenting with skipping verification of insurance at the vaccine site.
“[We] stopped checking the insurances because we thought it was more important for people to actually get the vaccine than to stress on the insurance part of the process,” McElyea said.
So far, McElyea said what they have is a good system, and more importantly, it is a system that works. She is excited to help her neighboring counties learn how to host success drive-thru vaccination events as well.