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According to a GP, a formal drive-through flu vaccination clinic could serve as a model for distributing a Covid-19 vaccine to large numbers when it is available.

Dr Mike Thompson of the Imokilly Medical Centre in Midleton, Co Cork founded the East Cork Flu Vaccine Drive-Through Clinic, which, over the weekend, vaccinated approximately 1,000 people against the flu.

“We felt the safest way to administer the vaccine was to give it to people in their car so we copied the idea from the drive-through testing that was set up for Covid-19 earlier in the year,” Dr Thompson told The Irish Times.

“And we decided to preserve out GP capacity from Monday to Friday by setting up the clinic at the weekends so we had a team of three doctors, a nurse, two administrators and a medical student administering the vaccine.”

Dr Thompson described how the team, which involved fellow east Cork GPs, Dr Sean McCarthy and Dr Clare Cooney, made contact with the Defence Forces and One Ordinance Battalion from Collins Barracks gave assistance.

They erected a drive-through tent at a location at the Market Green in Midleton, provided by local retailer Tom Kelly.

Medical student Glen Curtin prepared a website where people could book an appointment for their vaccination.

“It worked a treat – we had three GPs, nurse Aimee Quirke and administrators Tara Cuthbert and Noelle Sloane operating the system and on Saturday we did 390 cars and today we did 164 cars,” he said.

“We started at 9.30am on Saturday and finished at 4pm and we went from 10am until 2pm today and the only thing that stopped us was that we ran out of vaccine and we had to confine ourselves to those who had booked.

“We turned away 112 cars on Saturday and 80 today – these were people who turned up on spec, and while we had a few no shows on Saturday, everyone who was booked to turn up today did, which is very encouraging.”

Dr Thompson said asides denying people who did not book an appointment vaccination, everything went well.

“We can do a car a minute for ten hours so that’s 60 cars an hour or 600 cars in a ten-hour period and over eight weekends or 16 days, that’s 7,200 people which is more than a GP would see in a year,” he said.

“We never had more than five cars waiting at any one time – people drove up, we had their PPS number and date of birth from their online booking so we checked who they were and administered the vaccine and they drove off.

“And there was a really good vibe about it all – we gave it to the kids via a nasal spray and people were really appreciative, saying it was really convenient, just getting the jab and then going off and doing their shopping or whatever.”

“We don’t have any Covid-19 vaccine yet but very definitely this model could be used – it’s easy to operate, it’s quick, convenient and safe with people staying in their cars. It’s an ideal way of giving a vaccine to large numbers.”

Dr Thompson explained that while he was positive that social distancing due to Covid-19 will indicate that lesser people get the flu this year, worry about Covid-19 has caused more people to be interested in getting the flu vaccine.

“The HSE has ordered 1.35 million adult flu vaccines and 600,000 children’s vaccines – I think the number for children is going to be fine but I can see there being a shortage for adults given the demand we are experiencing.

“I certainly have never seen this level of interest from people wanting the flu vaccine – normally we’re almost trying to sell it to people, encouraging them and cajoling them to get it but now we have people ringing up looking for it.

“So we’re hoping that in our case after the success of the drive-through clinic weekend, the HSE will supply more vaccines to supply the clinic as our next session on October 31st/November 1st is already booked out.”

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