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Drive-thru flu clinics ‘a drill’ for possible COVID-19 vaccination

  • Walgreens pharmacist Kyle Dufault administers a flu shot to Michele Podlesny at the drive-thru flu clinic Monday at Our Lady of Peace Church in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A drive-thru flu clinic was held Monday at Our Lady of Peace Church in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Hawlemont Emergency Dispensing Site held a drive-thru flu clinic at the Charlemont Fairgrounds on Sept. 26, during which 245 vaccines were administered. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/1/2020 4:41:58 PM

Drive-thru flu clinics are being organized across Franklin County this fall, acting as “a drill” for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine — if and when one is released in the coming months.

On Wednesday morning, vehicles lined North Main Street in South Deerfield for the South County Senior Center’s drive-thru flu clinic.

“We’re in amazing shape for the possibility of a COVID (vaccine),” said Deerfield Police Sgt. Adam Sokoloski. “This is really a drill for that.”

Participants pulled up into one of two lanes, with inoculators on either side of their vehicle. Sokoloski said the Frontier Region Emergency Dispensing Site (EDS) has held a number of similar clinics in past years to drill for a possible pandemic.

“These flu shot clinics work as a drill for emergency dispensing,” he said, noting that the Emergency Dispensing Site group has been around for more than 10 years. “Things kind of ramped up with the swine flu, and all kinds of stuff.”

The flu clinic at the Senior Center was specifically geared toward seniors to offer a high-dose vaccine, in addition to the regular dose and children’s dose, on a day seniors typically come to the center for food pickup, Sokoloski said. At least 150 people were pre-registered for the clinic.

“We’re really proud to have that many people coming through,” said Meg Ryan, outreach coordinator for the South County Senior Center.

South County Senior Center Director Christina Johnson, who said flu clinics for the center are typically held inside the building, agreed that the benefit to Wednesday’s clinic is that at some point, they will need a safe way to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

Betty Tegel, who lives in Turners Falls, came to the clinic both for a flu vaccine and the center’s weekly farm stand. She said she felt the drive-thru method is “the way to go” for a possible future COVID-19 vaccine.

“It was very well organized,” she said, noting the efficiency of the setup. “We want to limit our contact inside any retail stores, and that includes a pharmacy.”

Earlier this week, drive-thru clinics were held elsewhere in the county, including one at Our Lady of Peace Church in Turners Falls on Monday and another on Sept. 26 at the Charlemont Fairgrounds, where 245 vaccines were administered to children and adults, according to Betsy Kovacs, chair of the Heath Board of Health.

“We were really pleased that people took advantage of the opportunity to get their flu shot locally,” Kovacs said, “and to give us the opportunity to do a drill for a drive-thru clinic as a practice for, we hope, an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.”

She said the fairgrounds was an “excellent venue” for the clinic, which was organized by the Hawlemont Emergency Dispensing Site. The space was large, and similar to the South County Senior Center, there was more than one lane of traffic for receiving a vaccination.

“It’s so important to get a flu shot every year, and especially this year,” Kovacs said. “We want to make sure that people are as healthy as possible to help them … not be vulnerable to getting COVID and also to limit pressure on the health care system.”

Another Hawlemont Emergency Dispensing Site flu clinic is scheduled to take place at the former Heath Elementary School on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. This clinic, however, will be held indoors.

“It will be socially distanced, and we would encourage people to come,” she said. “It’s an optimum time to get a flu shot to have good coverage through the winter and early spring.”

Sokoloski said Frontier Emergency Dispensing Site’s next clinic is scheduled Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Deerfield Highway Garage on Merrigan Way.

Residents are advised to register in advance of Sunday’s clinic, and they can do so by visiting bit.ly/2SaJJdf. A schedule of coming flu clinics throughout Franklin County can be found at the same link.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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