- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2009

The University of Maryland staged a mass three-hour vaccination exercise Thursday, aiming to inoculate 2,000 students, faculty members and staff against the seasonal flu to test the school’s preparedness for a large-scale outbreak.

Kelly Kesler, the university health center’s assistant director of health promotion, said the exercise was an opportunity for officials to test how fast they could mobilize in the event of an emergency.

“The University of Maryland is a POD — point of distribution site — for the campus population, and if needed the surrounding community. So this was a good event to gauge our emergency preparedness, not just for vaccinations but also, for instance, the distribution of water or masks in the event of a national disaster.

“This particular exercise is very unique, because it was an actual simulation. In most places, preparedness is tested via tabletop exercises or expert projections,” she said.

Doors opened 15 minutes before the 3.30 p.m. start time because of the large number of students who had gathered outside the university’s Ritchie Coliseum despite the rain. Inside about 90 staff members and community volunteers manned vaccination stations to administer the free injections. Organizers prepared a privacy booth for those with cultural or religious sensitivities.

Planners predicted that health officials would be able to process about 700 people an hour. In the first hour, about 680 people came through the doors, with each vaccination taking about six minutes.

Graduate students Max Bauer, 24, and Sohee Kim, 36, said they were impressed that the process was so swift.

“It’s great and, even better, free,” said Ms. Kim, whose only complaint was about the rain. “The whole event was very well-organized.”

“Quick and efficient,” Mr. Bauer said.

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