Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Get a free flu shot Thursday, Sports Complex

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Monday, December 18, 2006

PALMER— On Thursday, you and your family can get a free flu shot at the Wasilla Sports Center from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Tell your friends and neighbors.

The shots are part of a mass dispensing drill that will test our community's response at handing out items; in this case flu shots, in another, it might be sandbags.

This drill focuses on the scenario of preventing an outbreak. If an infectious disease arrived, research shows that our community would need treatment within 48 hours to prevent an outbreak.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is unlike Anchorage in that it does not have a public health department. The Borough's population of nearly 80,000 would rely on eight state nurses. That's why organizing the many volunteers in this drill (more than 100) and giving them practice is vital. The volunteers back up the nurses. Our residents will know what to expect by being involved themselves. Additionally, in a real event the eight nurses would be responsible for the communities beyond the MAT-SU Borough boundaries such as Glennallen and the Copper River Valley.

Similar drills have been in more confined places such as Valdez, Ketchikan, Bethel, and Unalaska. This is the first mass dispensing drill for a vast area, about the size of West Virginia. Our high commuter population makes us different as well. As of 2003, 34 percent of MAT-SU residents commuted to Anchorage, making them potentially harder to reach.

This drill will attempt to vaccinate more than 500 people an hour. Other communities have met that rate this year. We'll be the sixth Alaska community to gauge our effectiveness. Meet at the Wasilla Sports Complex, 1001 S. Mack Drive, 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. on Nov. 9. Traffic monitors will direct you on parking.

Babies and children can also be vaccinated. However, children will require a follow-up visit with Public Health nurses for a second shot if they haven't been vaccinated for the flu before.

Transportation help will be provided by MASCOT. Participants who do not want to drive to the Sports Complex can drive to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 1201 Bogard Road, beginning at 2:30 p.m., Thursday, and ride a shuttle bus to the Sports Complex. The shuttle will both stop at the church and leave the Sports Center every half hour. The last bus will leave the Sports Center at 7:30 p.m. to return the last of the participants to their vehicles. MASCOT has offered to give a ride to anyone who is unable to access public transportation. The number to call is 376-5000.

This event is sponsored by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska Department of Health & Social Services, the American Red Cross, MAT-SU Regional Hospital, MASCOT, the City of Wasilla, and UAA.

Call Patty Sullivan, public affairs manager, at (907) 745-9577 for more information.