Health officials prepare for annual flu vaccination clinic
BERRYVILLE -- Health officials here are preparing for their annual free flu vaccination clinic that is set for this Friday in Berryville.
Hosted by the Carroll County Health Unit (CCHU), it will be held from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., at the First Assembly of God Church, located on the east side of Berryville, on U.S. Hwy. 62.
Originally, the flu clinic was planned as a "drive-through" event, similar to those held in past years.
However, with the potential to dispense two vaccines this year -- the seasonal flu and the H1N1, it will be set up as a "walk-in" clinic for most clients.
According to CCHU Administrator Sherri Plumlee, the "mobile-impaired" can receive their vaccines in the comfort of their vehicles by going through a special drive-through line set up just for them. Everyone else will be required to walk in, she said.
Although there is plenty of seasonal flu vaccine available in the injectable form, she said supplies of the H1N1, in both injectable and mist form, are limited and the situation changes daily.
If she is short of the H1N1, Plumlee said pregnant women and children age six months through four years "are our priority."
Already, she has been dispensing both vaccines. Eureka Springs school children were offered the vaccines last week, and that clinic went "very well," she said.
Vaccines were also dispensed to students at Green Forest Schools the first of this week. Clinics at Berryville Schools are set for Nov. 4-5.
A second flu vaccination clinic for the public is planned Dec. 4, again a First Assembly in Berryville, she said, when both vaccines should be plentiful.
This Friday, the CCHU will be one of many health units statewide providing free flu vaccines while practicing its Local Mass Dispensing Plan.
"We do it this way to practice our master plan," said Plumlee. "Mass dispensing is an effective way to get it done. We administered more than 1,800 flu vaccines at our clinic last year."
Plumlee said she's been busy rounding up volunteer nurses, clerical staff and food donations to feed the workers during the day-long event at the church.
School nurses will be helping, she said, along with those from the community and the hospital. In addition, community members and civic clubs have stepped up to help with clerical duties, local banks are lending their staffers, and area restaurants are contributing food.
Fire departments from across the area are also helping, she said, by providing volunteers for traffic control.
Plumlee says people coming to the free clinic for flu shots should wear loose fitting clothing, perhaps a short-sleeved shirt under a jacket they can easily take off, so their bare arm will be readily available.
Entry into the mass dispensing staging area for the "mobile-impaired" will be by way of Carter Street, off of U.S. Hwy. 62, where the new St. John's Hospital sign is located.
For all others, the "walk-ins," they should enter from Hwy. 62, where a sign will be posted, along with volunteer traffic directors.
Persons who have any kind of insurance, including Medicare, Medicaid, ARKids or state employee health insurance, are asked to bring their membership cards for reimbursement purposes.
"The vaccines are provided," said Plumlee, "but insurance will help us recoup some of our other expenses."
According to state health department officials, the influenza vaccination offers 70 to 90 percent protection against the infection and can decrease its severity and side effects.
It usually becomes effective two weeks after being administered. Those most at risk for influenza complications are those 50 or older, children six month through 18 years, those with chronic disorders and diseases, pregnant women, and those younger than 18 who take aspirin daily.
Some persons should not receive the vaccine, such as those who are severely allergic to eggs, and those with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome.
For more information, or to volunteer or donate to the Carroll County effort, contact Plumlee at (870) 423-2923.