Strong winds ruled out the usage of tents, but the Town of Marion was determined to get through its first drive-through flu-shot clinic in anticipation of the day there might be an opportunity to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.
The flu clinic, held for residents on October 8 at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center, was the first event organized for the town by Lori Desmarais as its new public health nurse in concert with the town’s Board of Health and Police Department.
“Lori and Lieutenant (Richard) Nighelli have gone above and beyond,” said Town Administrator Jay McGrail of their efforts organizing the event. “At one point we were backed up all the way out to the screening station. We never had a backup on Route 6. At the end of the day, we will have had over 150 (receiving vaccinations). … Lori’s been here just shy of a month and she pulled all this off.”
Preparation was key and to that end, a dry run was conducted a week prior for town employees. This event, it is hoped, will eventually be considered preparation for the potential distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. That event, if it occurred in the middle of the winter, would include a two-lane, drive-through tent in which the vaccine would be administered.
Between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm last Thursday, cars streamed into 465 Mill Street, using the driveway on the left side of the building on the way in and curling around the back before exiting on the opposite side. Senior citizens were asked to visit the clinic between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm and the general public from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
At the first station on the driveway to the left of the building, pre-registrants were checked off of a list, their temperatures taken and their paperwork verified,” said McGrail. A couple of applicants were sent away.
At the second station on the opposite side of the building, paperwork was given a more thorough check and copies were taken of insurance cards. It was also determined by staff which dosage was appropriate and a corresponding sticker affixed to their paperwork.
A four-station inoculation area was staffed with five public-health nurses including Desmarais, recently retired Marion health nurse Kathleen Downey and soon-to-retire Mattapoisett Health Nurse Amanda Stone. “The key is, it’s all hands on-deck,” said McGrail, whose mother-in-law is a licensed nurse and volunteered to assist.
If someone was receiving a flu shot for the first time, they pulled over to a special area where they could remain under the observation of an emergency medical technician (EMT) for the prescribed 15 minutes to ensure immediate attention in the event of any adverse reaction to the vaccine. Ages 2 and older were eligible to receive a vaccine, and the higher dose was made available to ages 65 and older.
“Taking steps to protect against other respiratory illnesses is especially important as we continue to fight the COVID-19 virus across the region,” said Desmarais in a press release advertising the event to the community.
Though they would not be leaving their vehicles, residents were required to facemasks along with short sleeves. They were also asked ahead of time to complete their insurance forms and bring insurance and Medicare cards – but not their pets – in order to expedite the process in the event of crowds.
Vaccinations were given to all regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, and transportation was made available for seniors through the Council on Aging.
For more information about this clinic, call the Board of Health at (508) 748-3530 or the Council on Aging at (508) 748-3570.
By Mick Colageo