Medical personnel from Fort Stewart’s Winn Army Community Hospital partnered with colleagues from Liberty County Health Department to fight the flu last week.
On Wednesday and Thursday the medical teams formed a drive-through flu clinic in the parking lot of SFC Paul R. Smith Education Center.
On Thursday, one lane was open for Liberty County residents and three lanes were open for military spouses, military retirees and their families. The clinic operated six hours each day.
Winn public affairs officer Michelle Gordon said it was the fifth time they’ve held the drive-through clinic and the second time Winn partnered with the community’s health department.
She said having the clinic at the education center allowed civilains access without having to go onto Fort Stewart.
“This is called a point of distribution exercise,” Maj. Mark Potter, officer in charge of the clinic and chief of entomology at Winn, explained. “(The exercise) is a preparation for mass casualties from an influenza pandemic. We’re also providing a service to the community while we practice.”
Potter said this year’s shots were a general vaccine, not one designed to fight a specific type of flu like Asian bird flu.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas came for a shot and said he didn’t mind flu shots, but didn’t like any shot that requires long needles.
It took two nurses to get Thomas’ long-sleeve white shirt rolled up over his muscles to administer the shot to the former Special Forces soldier. He laughed though just before he was pricked, saying he’d try hard not to cry.
Col. Ron Place, commander of Winn and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Medical and Dental Activity Command, said he’d already had his shot, turning down an invitation for another.
He said that before the annual drive-through clinic, Stewart’s medical command conducted retirement fairs and other activities for military spouses and the retirees.
“We try to be responsive and helpful to the community, mindful of their time while maximizing health improvement,” he said. “After this year’s clinic, we’ll look at the numbers and compare them to last year’s numbers. We’ll evaluate what we find, look for feedback from the community and make decisions about next year.”
As drivers arrived they were greeted by screeners such as Brenda Sherrod and Ivette Perez, both industrial hygienists at Winn. Paperwork was completed and signed then the driver was directed to the next station where nurses administered the shot or mist, depending on the age and preference of the recipient.
“At this first station, we just do the screening,” Sherrod said as she directed an SUV and its occupants forward. “Like yesterday, at first it was busy when we started. Then it got busy again just before lunch and again right after school let out.”
At the nurses’ station, Valarie Isaac checked Army spouse Deidra Betts’ paperwork and talked with her about her shot and the shots to be given to her three children, who lined the backseat of the four-door pickup, each in a child safety seat. Isaac explained that Betts’ youngest would receive the mist, not a needle shot. She said they can vaccinate children as young as 6 months.
Gordon said last year about 1,000 vaccinations were administered for military spouses and retirees.