A healthier drive-thru that serves flu shots, not burgers

    During two Saturdays in October

    During two Saturdays in October

    It’s that time of year when doctors and nurses start pushing the flu shot, and some patients start pushing back.

    “I’ll get it later.”

    “The shot makes you sick.”

    “I got one last year.”

    Those are just some of the reasons people delay—or decide not to get a flu shot.

    In the fall of 2014, the flu vaccine was a bit of a “mismatch,” and that news prompted some people to skip the flu shot. This flu season, early reports suggest that health officials and vaccine makers have gotten it right.

    Among people older than age six months in the United States, about 47 percent got the influenza vaccine last flu season.

    Health officials say the vaccine is the best protection against a disease that can send vulnerable people to the hospital—especially very old people and young children.

    The health system tries lots of things to make immunization cheap and easy. Free drive-thru vaccine clinics are now popular in suburban, car-friendly communities anchored by a large hospital.

    Over two Saturdays in October, the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center administered about 2,000 vaccines at its drive-thru events.

    Cheers from the nurses, stickers, lollipops and colorful adhesive bandages were incentive enough for most reluctant children.


    Gale Dahlager, who’s studying to become a physician assistant, says she’s honest and quick when she’s giving the flu shot to children. Asked: ‘Will it hurt?’ she said ‘Yes, but for less than three seconds.’ (Taunya English/WHYY)

    “We had a small child in a Kung Fu pose a while ago, he looked like he was going to fight and he really didn’t want the flu shot, and his family wanted him to get the flu shot,” said Paula Labonte, nurse manager of employee health and employee safety.

    That little boy got his flu shot in a separate kids corner off to the side where pediatric nurses with special training gave him a little more attention.

    The medical center set up four lanes of traffic in a hospital parking lot. The line of cars moved steadily for several hours, on average one flu shot about every six minutes, Labonte said.

    High-school student Dalia Diaz-Zorrilla isn’t afraid of needles but said she was nervous because she wasn’t so sure that this type of flu shot was sanitary.

    “We have alcohol wipes, we’ve got gloves down there,” Labonte said. “We’re using good hand hygiene. I’d say it’s just as good as a doctor’s office, in some cases it might be faster.”

    “Here, they don’t even have to get out of the car, they’re running errands, they’re out doing something fun on a Saturday afternoon, they can drive through and within a matter of minutes the entire car is vaccinated,” said Gale Dahlager. She’s in school to become a physician assistant.

    Denise Welch Brock brought her three daughters all decked out in pink after the family completed a charity walk earlier in the morning.

    “It doesn’t have the hospital environment or the pharmacy environment,” she said. “And free is good.”

    Sixteen-year-old DeAubre Brock showed her little sister how easy it was.

    “She was nervous, but I think she did OK being able to see us do it—and not be nervous,” DeAubre said.

    Cities in Maryland, Virginia, Nevada, Southern California and Kansas also had drive-thru clinics this fall.

    The clinic participants signed a consent form and went home with a copy of that day’s vaccine information to share with a primary care provider or school nurse.


    Marleen Sooy says the first-available flu-shot appointment at her doctor’s office was a month away, so she got her immunization at a drive-through clinic. (Taunya English/WHYY)

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