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Vaccination station gets test in Colonie

First it was food, then prescriptions and now there are drive-through influenza vaccinations.

More than 200 Colonie employees signed up to take part in the exercise, which mimicked an emergency response to a biological attack or viral outbreak. The idea: Have people drive through firehouses or car washes where nurses are at the ready with vaccines to inoculate the masses.

Basically, the primary thing we are doing is vaccinating people for influenza. Secondly, we are testing a drive-through method for administering vaccinations or medications, said Maribeth Miller, assistant commissioner for public health at Albany County Department of Health.

The drill, which took place Wednesday, Nov. 28, was funded through a Department of Homeland Security's Cities Readiness Initiative grant.

One by one, Colonie employees and their families made their way through the Midway Fire Department's garage with their arms hanging out car windows.

County nurses administered shots, and immediately the next car pulled up. There were 700 shots to be administered. By 2:30 p.m., a half hour after the drive-through opened, 80 shots had already been given.

"When I first heard it -- drive-through flu shots -- it sounded a little weird. It's the first time the town has done something like this," said Colonie Supervisor Mary Brizzell.

Albany County Department of Health partnered with the town's emergency medical response team to host the first drive-through clinic.

The drill is to test how effective partnership between county, municipal agencies and emergency services are at dealing with outbreaks or attacks.

Millions of dollars have been funneled to fire fighters and emergency medical services to combat biological or natural outbreaks if or when they happen, said Miller.

In recent years, health departments have been charged by federal agencies to begin developing methods to reach as much of the population as possible in times of biological attacks or pandemic outbreaks within 48 hours of initial exposure. The drive-through method was the county's answer, said Miller.

In the plan, a number of locations and buildings can be used for the system. Fairgrounds, car washes and firehouses can be instantly transformed into triage and stations for administering vaccines and anti-viral agents.

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