20 Years of Keeping Lehigh Valley Vaccinated
Preface by TLB Staff Writer: Christopher Wyatt
WOW! I am not sure I have the strength to comment on the following propaganda piece that is masquerading as news but I am going to try. How on earth can they possibly think a drive through clinic where people receive an irreversible medical procedure is possible safe? I knew the pro vaccine liars were pushing hard but a drive through vaccine clinic is insane even by their standards. What if the driver has an adverse reaction such as seizure or death while on the road? Do these people even care?
I am urging all local activist to be at this flu shot clinic and to distribute as much truth as possible about the dangers of vaccines. The only way we can end the vaccine lie is to educate others and put the truth out there as loudly as possible.
We The People NOT They The Elite (CW)
20 Years of Keeping Lehigh Valley Vaccinated
By Binghui Huang
The 450 volunteers and staff who run the annual Lehigh Valley Health Network community influenza campaign have seen it all.
When they open at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom Saturday morning for the 20th year of the campaign, the staff will have jumper cables to restart cars, stop signs to prevent cars from missing the vaccine stations, emergency staff for unexpected health problems and trained workers who can keep children still while administering the shot.
The campaign grew from a small clinic where about 50 people got vaccines to a two-day event at Dorney Park and Coca-Cola Park, where hundreds of practiced staff vaccinates more than 10,000 people at no charge. Every volunteer is a well-tuned part of a fast-running operation, vaccinating up to 1,000 people every hour. The convenient setup, which gets people moving through the lines and vaccinated in 15 to 20 minutes — without having to get out of their cars — attracts many who may otherwise opt out, hospital staff said.
The elderly, babies and sick people are most vulnerable to the flu. When former CEO Dr. Elliot J. Sussman came up with the drive-through clinic idea, he had vulnerable people in mind, said Terry Burger, LVHN’s director of infection control and prevention and flu shot weekend organizer.
He wanted people with disabilities to easily get the flu shot, she said.
“It was just a challenge for them to get wherever they were going, let alone stand in line,” Burger said.
And at the time, the idea seemed somewhat radical, said Dr. Luther Rhodes, chief of hospital epidemiology at LVHN.
“People driving up and putting an arm out to get a shot. That sounded dangerous and potentially chaotic,” he said.
And the first few times were logistically difficult, he said. But the team soon proved skeptics wrong, successfully giving out 150,000 shots in 19 years.
“That’s got to count and save lives,” Rhodes said.
A lot has changed since the first clinic.
“Every year we’ve tweaked it, changed this or changed that, or added this. Every year, there’s something new,” said Burger.
Hand and foot warmers and propane tanks to keep volunteers warm. A DJ to keep the energy high. Hot chocolate and cupcakes to make 400 volunteers happy. Colorful Band-aids to placate crying kids. EpiPens to deal with allergic reactions. Color-coded vests to easily identify doctors, nurses and other volunteers.
Mass vaccination also prepares hospital staff for pandemics, such as the swine flu of 2009, or even potential bioterrorism such as an anthrax attack, hospital staff said.
“It’s like a puzzle, and we put the puzzle together within hours,” said Dr. Tibisay Villalobos-Fry, an LVHN pediatrician and infectious disease specialist who helps organize the flu shot event.
At the height of the swine pandemic, the flu shot event attracted 14,000 people, according to hospital data. It freed up doctors’ offices to treat sick patients, Burger said.
“Our doctor’s offices couldn’t handle the volumes of phone calls or the people asking for flu shots. So they needed to redirect them somewhere so their offices can continue seeing sick people,” she said.
The campaign even caught the attention of the U.S. military, prompting them to send representatives to observe the operation, Burger said.
Organizing thousands of people is a challenge, but getting people to doctor’s offices or the drive-through flu clinics may be a harder job. Despite the annual education campaign, most adults don’t get the vaccines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reasons vary from myths about the danger of the vaccine to fear of needles and the inconvenience of going to a doctor’s office.
A recent Morning Call story about the flu season elicited many Facebook responses from vaccine skeptics. Some claimed the vaccine causes the flu, which is false. Some say it’s ineffective, which is also untrue. Others claim their immune system is strong enough to withstand the flu, to which doctors say even healthy people die from the flu.
Skepticism may be rooted in the difficulty of making a flu vaccine that protects against all forms of the flu virus.
Unlike some other vaccines that can almost eradicate the disease, such as the polio vaccine, the flu vaccine changes every year to match the fast-evolving strains of the circulating virus and is about 60 percent effective in a good year.
Last year, the vaccine was about 42 percent effective, according to the CDC. But still, the flu vaccine is the best tool to combat the virus. Plus, annual vaccinations build the body’s immunity to all strains of the flu over time, said Villalobos-Fry.
One of the most well-known flu deaths in the Lehigh Valley happened more than a decade ago. Martin McGowan, a healthy teenager from Bushkill Township was rushed to the hospital after he woke up weak and hurting. That same day, he passed away from complication from the flu.
Since then, his family began a vaccine advocacy organization and has volunteered at LVHN’s flu shot weekend to raise awareness about the importance of vaccines.
In past years, flu cases ranged from 3,000 to more than 6,000 in the Lehigh Valley. Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a viral respiratory illness with symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat and fatigue. From October 2016 to September, the state recorded more than 71,000 flu cases and 149 deaths. The vast majority of deaths were among senior citizens. And a nasty flu season in Australia — where flu cases more than doubled this year — could signal a bad flu season here, health experts say.
In the first four weeks of October, there has been 29 documented cases of the flu in the Lehigh Valley. The actual number may be higher because many flu cases are not reported, health officials say.
Typically, flu cases spike from December to February, when hospitals can see hundreds of people monthly for the virus.
People hospitalized for the flu often never got vaccines, Villalobos-Fry said. Even if the vaccine doesn’t stop the flu, it makes symptoms milder, she said.
FREE FLU SHOTS
Lehigh Valley Health Network holds its 20th annual drive-through clinic this weekend.
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Dorney Park in South Whitehall Township on Saturday; Coca-Cola Park in Allentown on Sunday.
Who: Anyone over 6 months old
What kind of shots: Those between 6 months and 64 years old will receive the quadrivalent vaccine. Older people can get the trivalent high-dose vaccine.
What else: Volunteers will collect non-perishable food items to benefit local charities.