Friday, November 06, 2009

Oakland County H1N1 Swine Flu Immunization Follies

Oakland County's immunization process hasn't exactly been run perfectly.

Yesterday, my wife on finding out from a neighbor that they still had immuniztion shots available took the kids to the Pontiac Silverdome where there was a mass immunization clinic going on.

After almost 3 hours waiting, 50 minutes of it outside in the cold the kids were immunized (at least partially, they aparently are supposed to receive a second shot at some point to get further resistance but who knows when and where that will be available), but likely exposed to tons of germs from the lots of people they were stuck hanging around with. On the upside, one of the nice people in line with her turns out to be a university student and after chatting Natasha gave her a lift back to her dorm to spare her from having to walk back in the cold. On the downside this morning Natasha has cold-like symptoms.

Mass immunization clinics are not a great idea. Certainly, not an efficient use of time nor great for exposing potentially sick people to each other, not to mention have them stand out in the cold to weaken their immune systems before mixing with hundreds of strangers.

But they do make for great press and publicity, which was apparently the point:

Michiganians clamor for H1N1 vaccine
Clinic at The Palace draws hundreds as state health officials add six to swine flu death toll

The virus is rampant. The vaccine is scarce. Oakland and Macomb county health departments are only holding mass clinics to administer the vaccine. Wayne County is taking appointments, but the wait is so long that the next available appointment isn't until January.

State health officials are recommending residents call their doctor but they don't know how many physicians have the vaccine. The Michigan Medical Society also doesn't know how many providers have gotten the vaccine, and some residents say their doctors don't have the shot.

Amazingly, one of the workers at the event told my wife when she asked why they're doing them en masse like this was that "They wanted it for the media coverage". No explanation as to who they were but apparently a nice mass immunization event gives the impression that officials are doing something. Great reason, that.

First, why not begin the immunizations at the greatest vector for flu transmission and some of the most at risk populations? Schools! Have the parents send in permission forms, have the kids immunized indoors in comfort in their classrooms or nurses' office and have it done quickly and efficiently. Have immunization at colleges and universities to get the at risk population of students vaccinated quickly and efficently without having to require them to make it to the Palace.

The last bit of brilliance at the immunization extravaganza - no gloves. When asked, the person giving the vaccine told my wife they weren't required to be worn by direction from the CDC, and besides they would have to take them off after each shot. So instead you have potential disease transmission from the shot giver to everyone she comes in contact with. Perfect.

Hopefully next time instead of these mass immunizations they'll plan smarter for efficiency with less focus on looking pretty for the media.

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