Images of overflowing health departments and doctors' offices during a pandemic or other biological crisis aren't difficult to imagine.
Soon, though, such scenarios might become unimaginable.
This month, the Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division and other health workers intend to test a new method for delivering vaccines and other medicines that won't even require people to exit their vehicles.
An exercise scheduled from 8 a.m. until noon Jan. 22 at Grovetown High School will test health professionals to see how fast they can medicate 900 patients against anthrax.
Under large tents purchased last year by the division with a state Department of Public Health grant, workers will administer medicine to hundreds of volunteer victims in drive-through stations at the school on William Few Parkway.
County Health Department Nurse Manager Linda Graves envisions a setup where motorists and passengers arrive at one station to pick up paperwork, fill it out on the way to a drop-off station before driving to a final station to receive a shot or other medication.
"The purpose is to get people in and out very quickly, like a drive-through at a restaurant," she said. "We would hope to get them in and out in a few minutes."
With the help of trained volunteers, Graves believes her office could treat more than 1,000 patients in a day with a drive-through set-up.
The county has recruited about 20 volunteers who will quickly set up tents for the drive-through applications.
"Although this exercise focuses on anthrax, these same procedures may be used for numerous types of public health emergencies, including, but not limited to, mass vaccinations during flu pandemics," Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker said in an e-mail.
Graves said the drive-through might also become a viable option for delivering vaccine during a normal flu season.
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