County planning free flu clinics for residents, schools

Friday, October 14, 2011
Sherri Plumlee, administrator of the Carroll County Health Unit, talked about the 20 netbooks she was setting up that will be used at the mass dispensing flu clinic at the fairgrounds and at the schools. Anna Mathews / Carroll County News

CARROLL COUNTY -- Free flu vaccination clinics are scheduled across the county in the weeks ahead hosted by the Carroll County Health Unit (CCHU).

School clinics begin next week and the mass dispensing clinic for the general public will be the following week.

Parents of school children should be receiving informational packets about their child's clinic, set for Oct. 19 in Eureka Springs, Oct. 21 in Green Forest, and Oct. 24 in Berryville. Only school staff and students with signed permission forms will receive immunizations at the schools.

The mass dispensing clinic for all others is set for Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., at the Carroll County Fairgrounds, located on the north side of Berryville.

Only one vaccine will be dispensed at all clinics. It is a combination vaccine that protects against the seasonal flu, Influenza A, Influenza B, and H1N1.

It will be offered in two forms, the nasal spray and the shot, said CCHU Administrator Sherri Plumlee.

Children six months to two years receive a special injection designed for pediatrics, said Plumlee.

Youngsters two years and older and adults up to the age of 49 can choose either the nasal spray or an injection, she said, and those over the age of 49 are offered the injection only, based on product provider recommendations.

At the fairgrounds, there won't be a drive-through, but those who are "mobile-impaired" should let traffic directors know so they can be routed to a special area.

"We will accommodate them," Plumlee said. Everyone else, she noted, will be required to park and walk in.

The CCHU will be one of many health units statewide providing free flu vaccines during the month of October 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 1,200 flu vaccines at the fairgrounds last year."

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.

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."

A new program, implemented last year to streamline the registration process, will be used again this year. It includes a "bank" of clerical workers who are set up to register people the old-fashioned way with pen and paper -- and with new electronic equipment that scans a person's driver's license and insurance card.

"You scan those into this program and it automatically fills out the form," said Plumlee. "The bank of clerical people will also be manually inputting information taken from the pen and paper forms.

"We put it into the data base so billing can take place and we get an accurate count of what goes on," she said. "This lessens human error and streamlines the process."

The new program is also utilized in the schools when Plumlee takes the dispensing clinic to campuses.

A return to the schools, she noted, "is per Gov. Beebe's directive." It is to offer vaccines to the students and the staff.

"It's a convenient way for us to vaccinate the kids," she said. "They are a captive audience. It's convenient for us, for the kids and for the parents."

They will be at the Eureka Springs Elementary campus next Wednesday morning and at the Eureka Springs High School campus early afternoon.

The Green Forest school clinic will take place at the Alumni Center from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. next Friday.

The Berryville school clinic will be at the elementary physical education building on the west campus from 2:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24. Parental participation is encouraged.

Plumlee said this will be their third year to host the clinics at the schools and around 10 years that the health unit has hosted mass dispensing clinics for the general public.

Part of her preparation includes rounding up volunteer nurses, clerical staff, and traffic control personnel.

"I'm relying on volunteers," Plumlee said. "I have two full time nurses and three clerical staffers in my clinic. To do the amount of vaccines we do, it's a community event, and it takes more -- and I'm looking for more."

In the past, school nurses have helped along with those from the community and the hospital.

In addition, civic clubs have stepped up to help with clerical duties, local banks lent their staffers, and fire departments from across the area have provided volunteers for traffic control.

Plumlee hopes that community support will continue.

For more information, or to volunteer or donate to the Carroll County effort, contact Plumlee at (870) 423-2923 or 480-6906.

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