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LA JUNTA -- Approximately 7,855 persons in at-risk categories received free flu shots on Oct. 16 as part of the mass vaccination clinic exercise held in nine Southeastern Colorado counties.
The event, one of the largest bioterrorism exercises to be held in Colorado, also tested plans developed by public health agencies in the nine counties for immunizing all local residents within three days in case of a biologic attack.
The approximate number of at-risk persons receiving the flu shots as part of the exercise included:
Baca County: Baca County Fairgrounds, Springfield, 538
Bent County: Las Animas High School, Las Animas, 530
Cheyenne County: Cheyenne County Community Building, Cheyenne Wells, 226
Crowley County: Ward Middle School, Ordway, 736
Huerfano County: Huerfano County Community Center, Walsenburg, 921
Kiowa County: Kiowa County Courthouse, Eads, 425
Las Animas County: Trinidad Community Center, Trinidad, 1,416
Otero County: La Junta Middle School, La Junta, 1,413
Prowers County: Lamar Community/Senior Resource Center, Lamar, 1,650
Final numbers will be available within the next week.
Public health agencies participating in the exercise were the Baca County Nursing Service; the Bent County Nursing Service Authority; Cheyenne County Public Health; Crowley County Public Health Nursing Service; Kiowa County Nursing Service; the Las Animas/Huerfano Counties District Health Department; the Otero County Department of Health; and the Prowers County Public Health Nursing Service.
Douglas H. Benevento, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment who observed the exercise from the control center in La Junta, said, "All the involved public health agencies did a great job on this exercise, which served two important purposes. It provided flu shots to more to nearly 8,000 at-risk individuals, and also tested the region's bioterrorism and emergency preparedness response plans.
"I was particularly impressed that these public health workers, after the national vaccine shortage came to light, did such a great job of identifying the most vulnerable in their communities, who really needed to get flu shots and then saw that they were vaccinated."
Dr. Ned Calonge, the Department of Public Health and Environment's chief medical officer who also monitored the exercise from La Junta, said, "The day was very successful. The thing that was most striking to me was the attitude of the people in line. They displayed a spirit of camaraderie and understanding and went with the flow. They, and the exercise volunteers, made it a successful day."
Kris Stokke, the Lamar-based regional public health preparedness planner for the Department of Public Health and Environment's Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Program, said, "The collaboration on the local, regional and state levels for this exercise was a great success. Expert technical assistance from the volunteer Amateur Radio Emergency Services personnel, who are ham radio operators, assured consistent communication between the exercise control cell and the nine clinic sites.
"I also would like to thank the public that participated in the exercise today; the emergency response partners; support received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the state Office of Preparedness, Security and Fire Safety and the local health directors who put so much effort into planning this exercise over the last nine months."
Jacqueline Brown, the nursing director for the Prowers County Public Health Nursing Service who served as the exercise's project manager, said, "It was a tremendous effort on the part of so many people. We saw such a positive attitude among all the agencies that cooperated, and even the members of the public. The people who had to wait for their shots were patient and courteous.
"Before the vaccination shortage arose, we had a goal of immunizing at least 10 percent of the county population, which would be just under 1,500 people," Brown said. "Today, we vaccinated 1,650 people. That's about 40 percent of the estimated high-risk population."
"We learned a lot, even without any major glitches," Brown said. "The only disappointment is that we only vaccinated 59 children in the critical 6-to-23-months age group."
Source: Colorado Department of Health