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Drive and Stick

Flu shots delivered via drive-through clinics and Uber help increase vaccination rates.

People aren't just cruising through the coffee drive-through lane on their way into work anymore. They're getting flu shots on the go.

These new approaches vaccination are ramping up vaccination rates. More than 130 million total doses of the flu vaccine had already been distributed by Nov. 24-up from 113 million just a little more than a month ago.

A 2013 study published in PubMed found a drive-through vaccination clinic to be a quick and effective way to achieve more widespread immunization against influenza. By analyzing two separate clinics with a combined total of 1,275 vehicles and 2,174 vaccines, researchers found that the median throughput time for cars was 5 minutes, while the median vaccination time was just 48 seconds.

"Sometimes there'd be four people in the car," said Ryan Cluff, public health emergency preparedness manager for Navajo County, Ariz., in an interview about one of the flu vaccination clinics he helped organize at a fire station last month. "They'd roll down all four windows and we had people go to all four windows-if they had kids in the back."

Safety and Preparedness
Before the vaccines are administered, people complete standard medical paperwork to answer questions about reactions to flu shots in the past and any allergies to ingredients in the vaccine. Parking spaces are usually designated for drivers who are advised to wait a few minutes after their shot to ensure they don't experience any side effects before driving away.

SEE ALSO: The Flu Center

In October, a team of Navajo County paramedics distributed an average of 125 vaccines an hour, for a grand total of 370 flu shots at the drive-through clinic held at Heber-Overgaard fire station. This kind of outreach is especially important in the Arizona county due to its size-it's as large as Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland combined.

"Part of what we're doing with this is actually training the community on what they would do in the event of bioterrorism or a pandemic-how they would then go get their meds," Cluff pointed out. "They don't even know they're getting taught, but we're showing them how they would be directed into these areas, how they would have to fill out paperwork and information, and then they'd drive up and they would get the shots or else we'd hand them medication through the window."

The last flu pandemic in the United States was the spread of H1N1, also known as swine flu. The situation was declared a public health emergency in April 2009, and by April 2010, an estimated 43 million to 89 million people had been infected globally, with more than 8,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

"Flu is just getting started; there have been no substantial outbreaks so far," said Bill Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), in an interview with ADVANCE. "To date, the viruses isolated from early cases are a good match with what is in the vaccine."

Uber Delivery
In addition to drive-through clinics, efforts are being made to bring vaccines to patients. Residents of more than 35 cities recently had the option of getting a flu shot via Uber. On Nov.19, people used the app to request a vaccine and UberHEALTH delivered a nurse via Uber car right to that person's location. For $10, a nurse would be dispatched to provide a wellness pack and administer flu shots for up to 10 people.

Outside of the 1-day event, Uber helps people find a flu shot with VaccineFinder. Using a person's current location, the website finds a list of nearby places where a flu vaccine is available.

In 2014, UberHEALTH provided 2,057 people with flu vaccines. A fraction of that group returned surveys about their flu shot preferences, which were analyzed and later published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study, titled "On-Demand Delivery of Influenza Vaccination," found that only 30% of vaccine recipients were "definitely likely" to receive a flu shot from traditional providers, indicating that the Uber service was a factor in the decision to vaccinate. Meanwhile, 78% indicated that delivery of the vaccine was "very important."

These efforts are intended to boost vaccination rates for people who may not get their annual flu shot because of convenience issues or geographic accessibility. The target demographic is 18- to 49-year-olds, who have one of the lowest vaccination rates-well below the national average of 47%, according to the CDC.

Vaccination Urged
The NFID, CDC and the overall healthcare community continue to urge annual vaccination against influenza. National Influenza Vaccination Week, scheduled Dec. 6-12, will highlight the importance of the vaccine through the holiday season and beyond, so that more people are protected by February, when flu activity usually peaks.

"Drive-through clinics are fine and a clever way to make flu vaccines available," said Schaffner, of NFID. "Clinics at airports and the Uber offer are other imaginative approaches."

The typical American shops online, streams movies in the comfort of his or her living room, orders food using a smartphone, and can now access flu shots in similarly convenient ways. It seems the annual flu campaign has finally found a way to make vaccines stick.

Chelsea Lacey-Mabe is a staff writer. Contact: clacey-mabe@advanceweb.com


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