Student nurses and public health workers in action at a flu vaccination exercise in Ketchikan October 17, 2020 (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

Flu shots were offered to hundreds of community members in Ketchikan at no cost last Saturday.  As KRBD’s Maria Dudzak reports, the “point of dispensing” exercise helps the state Division of Public Health plan and prepare in the event of an emergency requiring vaccinations to be quickly distributed in the community

For four hours nursing students from the University of Alaska Southeast, donning masks, gowns and gloves, volunteered to distribute flu shots at the drive-up vaccination event.  Theresa Ruzek is public health nurse manager for Ketchikan, Petersburg and Prince of Wales Island. She says clinics like this are held every two years to assist with planning for mass inoculations.

“This is an exercise for COVID vaccination and also if we were to have some sort of natural disaster where we needed to distribute things to a large number of people in a very short period of time.”

Though primarily a drive-through event, Ruzek says there was also an indoor option.

Paperwork to complete before receiving a flu shot (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

“Anybody can take advantage of it, but it’s predominantly for people who maybe have some mobility issues or small children where we can’t vaccinate in the car. We are highly encouraging everybody to do the drive-through option if at all possible to maintain social distancing.”

Whether indoors or out, participants were required to wear masks. One of those taking advantage of the drive-through option was Russell Thomas. He says this is the first time he’s gotten a flu shot.

“I typically don’t get the flu, I just have not been that susceptible to it, but this time I’m just taking some extra precaution and being extra safe.”

Thomas says getting his shot was convenient and easy.

Ruzek says about 400 doses of vaccine were available on Saturday.  Almost 2/3 were distributed within the first two hours. Following up, the event ended 15 minutes early because all doses were distributed.  About 35 people volunteered to help on Saturday. Ruzek says this wasn’t only a flu clinic but also a training exercise.

“We will take the things we have learned today and apply to our upcoming COVID vaccination clinic. So we’ll tweak things and we’ll take lessons.”

There’s still no safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, so she couldn’t say when that might take place.

For those who missed the flu clinic, Ruzek says there are many other options such as private providers, stores and pharmacies.   But unlike Saturday’s event, people are usually required to pay upfront. Insurance usually covers the cost. For those without insurance the cost generally ranges between $10 and $40.