Ramsey County plans mass vaccination drillby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — An Arden Hills church will become the site of a mass vaccination drill on Tuesday to test Ramsey County's ability to provide flu vaccines.
The exercise, known as "Operation Big Shot," is just a drill to prepare for an influenza outbreak. No vaccinations will be available to the public on site.
Officials started planning for the event before H1N1 became a concern, but Robert Einweck, who oversees the county's public-health preparedness, said the timing of the drill is fortuitous. Einweck said it will help his staff fine tune its response to all sorts of scenarios that could play out if a mass clinic is needed for the H1N1 virus.
"We'll really try to test our staff by pushing through as many clients through the mass vaccination clinic as possible -- with a few surprises, because we want to keep people on their toes," Einweck said.
For example, workers may encounter people who are afraid of needles, or who can't speak English.
However, Einweck said the nurses won't administer real injections.
"Instead, they'll be using a plastic highlighter that actually looks like a syringe," Einweck said. "And the person will be getting a dot of highlighted color on their arm in lieu of a vaccination."
But Einweck said up to that point, the paperwork and procedures will be similar to those that would be in place during a real mass clinic.
The H1N1 vaccine should be available in the coming weeks.