Flu Vaccinations Test Public Health Readiness

Mass vaccination clinics to protect against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, responsible for the so-called swine flu, offer public health officials a chance to hone their procedures and prepare for future emergencies, says a University of Maryland expert.

“It’s like a preseason game for public health officials," says Jeffrey W. Herrmann, a University of Maryland engineering professor who’s developed software used by public health officials to plan the logistics of vaccinating thousands at a single location in a matter of hours.

“These vaccination clinics give public health officials a chance to execute their plans in a real-world situation, unlike the exercises they’ve been practicing, and then to improve them before a more dangerous threat appears,” Herrmann adds. “Experience and good planning are essential to saving lives when public health officials must respond to a deadly infectious disease,”

Herrmann’s software is one of the models recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use by public health officials in planning mass vaccination clinics.

Developed over five years in conjunction with Montgomery County, Maryland public health officials, the software helps planners avoid bottlenecks and long lines and correctly estimate how many people can be handled at a single vaccination site.