By Tina Hanson, Public Health Nurse Supervisor for Immunizations and Children’s Special Health Care Services with the Genesee County Health Department in Burton, Michigan
The Genesee County Health Department provided five drive-through flu/immunization clinics this past fall to residents in surrounding cities in the county. This was the health department’s first attempt at providing drive-through clinics to their residents. GCHD launched a Be A Health Hero campaign in September to create awareness on the importance of immunizations for families of all ages. The drive-through clinics were started with a goal of making sure that all of the Genesee County residents, no matter their ages, were up to date on their immunizations and seasonal flu shots. With COVID in the mix, many children and adults have fallen behind with their vaccination schedules due in part to the cancellation of locational conveniences, such as in-school vaccinations, they may have previously been accustomed to. These drive-through clinics provided the opportunity for everyone to get caught up with their immunizations in a safe environment, all while staying in compliance with COVID guidelines. The GCHD partnered with other local community organizations such as fire stations, hospitals, health care insurance providers and car dealerships to help host these drive-through clinics throughout the County. During the final drive-through clinic the Health Department along with Health Alliance Plan (HAP) gave a final push and provided Thanksgiving turkeys for those who received a flu shot. Tina Hanson, Public Health Nurse Supervisor for Immunizations and Children’s Special Health Care Services with the Genesee County Health Department, stated, “We want everyone, no matter their age, to be a Health Hero and get vaccinated.”
The health department faced three major challenges during this endeavor. The biggest was getting the message out that they would be hosting drive-through clinics around the county. The second was providing educational materials and support regarding the importance of vaccinations and what roles they take in protecting our bodies—most importantly referencing flu shots. “There is still a myth that the flu vaccine somehow causes the flu. We have been and will continue to work on getting proper education out to the community so that they have all of the facts,” stated Hanson. The third challenge included convincing residents that it was safe to come to the drive-through clinics and receive their vaccinations, as many community members are still continuing to avoid going out in public. These challenges were addressed with the support from the community partners as well as local media support, broadcast commercials and social media messages—all helping to provide education and available resources to the public.
The drive-through clinics where a success getting residents of all ages, the flu shot, many whom had never received one or had not received one in years. Additionally, the health department was able to get a large number of children caught up on their required school vaccinations, which allows them to stay in-school, whether that is virtual, in-person, or hybrid and help prevent vaccine preventable outbreaks. Hanson stated, “We were thrilled to have helped so many people with the drive-through clinics, but we know there are still many more people out there who are still in need of vaccinations. Will you be a Health Hero this year and make sure you and your family and friends are up to date on your vaccinations?” The Genesee County Health Department is open and taking appointments for any additional vaccination requests that come through.