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Drive-through clinic for vaccines, flu shot

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POSTED: November 10, 2010 9:25 a.m.
One of the things I miss most about working at the health department is the interaction with the staff. And, oddly enough, I recently found myself feeling somewhat excluded when they didn’t need me to help get ready for this year’s drive-through immunization clinic.
But they won’t be able to escape me as a client! And I may decide to be a difficult one at that. After all, they need to know how to deal with all kinds of problems during community disaster preparedness exercises. Yep, I’ll be the “nightmare client” who is scared, uniformed about the disaster medication process and who becomes hysterical worrying that they’ll run out of drugs before they get to me.
Realistically, though, I hope I’ll be the only one acting that way. If you are planning to attend the drive-through immunization clinic, you won’t want to waste your time “play-acting” when you could be learning exactly what you should do if your family ever needs to get medication or supplies to prepare for a real bioterrorist or national disaster.
By attending the clinic, you’ll feel more confident and less frightened. To learn how things work, stop by the drive-through immunization clinic on Thursday, Nov. 18, which also will serve as a disaster preparedness exercise for health department staffers.
The event runs from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at Coastal EMC on Highway 17 in Midway. Liberty County residents can get their yearly flu shots, pneumonia shots, boosters and/or tetanus vaccines without leaving their vehicles. Fees are the same as last year, $25 for a flu shot, but adults can receive free tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis shots or boosters at the same time if they aren’t already up to date on this vaccine combination.
When it comes to medical clinics, patients may never truly appreciate the long hours spent planning, ordering supplies, setting up equipment and working out the delivery of drugs and supplies to local residents. However, it is imperative that patients understand what is involved in a disaster preparedness exercise in case a real disaster ever strikes. It’s also important to get the background information on each vaccine that will be offered at next week’s drive-through event.
Produced in 1924, the first tetanus toxoid was used successfully to prevent tetanus in the armed services during World War II. In the mid 1940s, this toxoid was combined with diphtheria toxoid and inactivated pertussis vaccine to make the combination DTP vaccine for routine childhood immunization. In 1991, an acellular form of the pertussis vaccine was substituted, making it more purified and with fewer side effects. Five years ago, two new tetanus toxoid and diphtheria toxoids with acellular pertussis vaccine products were licensed. These vaccines are the first pertussis-containing combination vaccines that can be given to people older than 7 years. This change is important because this newer combination helps increase a person’s immunity to pertussis as well as tetanus and diphtheria.
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes coughing and gagging with little or no fever. An infected person has coughing episodes that may end in vomiting or cause a “whoop” sound when the person tries to breathe in.
Tetanus is caused by a toxin or poison produced by bacteria found in soil that enters the body through a cut or wound. Tetanus causes serious, painful spasms and stiffness of all muscles in the body and can lead to locking of the jaw so a person cannot open his or her mouth, swallow or breathe.
Diphtheria is a disease caused by bacteria that produce a poison or toxin. It can cause blockage of the airway, making it impossible to breathe. It can also cause heart problems and paralysis of the muscles needed for swallowing.
Adults should receive a booster dose of tetanus every 10 years. Adults ages 19-64 years who have never received Tdap should receive a single dose of Tdap to replace a single dose of tetanus and diphtheria so they can boost their resistance to pertussis.
Getting an influenza vaccination each year is the best way to prevent the flu. Research studies have shown that the influenza vaccination cuts down on the number of hospitalizations and deaths from influenza, especially among older people and those with chronic health conditions. Because the influenza virus changes from year to year, you should receive the vaccination each year — usually in the fall before flu season begins. The pneumonia vaccination is generally given once in a person’s lifetime, regardless of age; however, if you received your first pneumococcal vaccination before age 65, and if it has been five or more years since that time, a second vaccination should be given.
We’ll look forward to seeing you Nov. 18 at the drive-through immunization clinic. I’ll be the old lady fussing and looking aggravated, and you’ll have a pleased look on your face because you now understand the process and the vaccines being offered — plus you can get a flu shot without ever leaving your car.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
 

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