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'Walk-through' flu shot event set for Oct. 29

Posted: September 3, 2010 2:42 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2010 2:42 p.m.

The annual flu shot clinic at College of the Canyons is set for Friday, Oct. 29 -- but this year, it's going to be a walk-through immunization instead of a drive-through as in the past. 

Seasonal flu vaccine will be dispensed free of charge from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., or as long as the vaccine lasts.

The clinic will be set up in the West Physical Education building on COC's Valencia campus, off Rockwell Canyon Road. Parking is available in adjacent lots.

This is the fifth consecutive year for the clinic, organized as a joint mass-immunization exercise by the city of Santa Clarita, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and COC, along with the L.A. County Sheriff and Fire Departments.

People seeking shots should leave their pets at home (with the exception of guide dogs).

Along with immunizing SCV residents against seasonal flu, the clinic's purpose is to test the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) response during a bioterrorism attack and help prepare for our community's response to a potential pandemic.

The initiative outlines how to treat an impacted, mass population with medications within a short time period. Under the plan, communities are challenged to develop a variety of models through which vaccines can be distributed to mass populations. These "points of dispensing" can take many forms.

"The flu (clinic) not only provides a viable way for people to safeguard themselves against the flu season, but it also gives the community an important opportunity to practice preparedness on many levels," said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste.

Organizers of the local clinic, which occurs each year at College of the Canyons, are confident in their ability to handle the drive-thru model and, this year, have decided to go with a "walk-through" model in order to perfect that system.

In the case of an actual need to inoculate an entire community, it is likely that both walk-through and drive-through models would be activated in order to inoculate as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.

The clinic, also called a "point of dispensing" by organizers, is designed to operate under a command structure required by the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which have been established to provide effective management of multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional emergencies in California.

Police, fire and other first responder agencies use SEMS/NIMS procedures regularly because the system improves coordination and communications and reduces resource duplication during complex responses.

The theory is that with more agencies and volunteers learning the specifics of SEMS/NIMS, the more efficient all complex response activities will become.

Each year, additional volunteers are brought into the organizational structure of the clinic to learn the responsibilities of various key positions. As a result, more people are trained each year to assume the various responsibilities within the emergency structure.

The hope is to develop a pool of people within the community who can step in and run multiple PODs if a future situation were to warrant that. More than 150 volunteers from the participating agencies help coordinate the event each year.

"It is amazing how creative and dedicated all of the volunteers are in making sure this event runs smoothly and I am impressed with how much we learn every year that is extremely useful," said Michael Joslin, the college's dean of student services as well as the POD incident commander for the second consecutive year. "I am interested in seeing how well a walk-through model works and how many people we can serve in a relatively short amount of time.

"The planning and implementation of the flu POD fosters cooperation and communication between agencies that otherwise don't often work together and who need to be able to coordinate their responses in the event of a large scale emergency," Dean said.

The college's Valencia campus is located near freeways and major arteries so that, in a real-world bioterrorism event, large numbers of people could be inoculated very efficiently.

College of the Canyons nursing students administer most of the immunizations and students from the emergency medical technician program are an important part of the screening process prior to vaccine being administered. Both groups gain valuable, real world experience.

City emergency response and emergency communication volunteers will also participate.

In the event of a large outbreak of disease or a regional terrorist attack, many clinics similar to this one in Santa Clarita would be needed to serve the needs of California communities.

According to public health officials, over the last four years the Santa Clarita flu PODs have ranked among the best in all of California.

The number of flu immunizations administered each year depends on the availability of seasonal flu vaccine. In past years, between 800-1,200 people have been immunized during the event.



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