Public can get flu shots in emergency drill

OGALLALA, Neb. - One of the many duties of a public health agency is to plan response for public health emergencies such as a disease outbreak. In the event of an outbreak of a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine, public health officials must respond by rapidly vaccinating a large number of people.

This type of response requires planning and practice, which is a goal for an Ogallala event organized by local health leaders.

From 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday Nov. 9, leaders from the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department in partnership with Banner Health and Nebraska Respite Network will practice the Keith County emergency response plan for mass vaccinations. They will conduct a mass vaccination drill by giving flu shots to community members. The drill is at the Keith County Fairgrounds, 1100 W. Fifth St., in Ogallala. Flu shots are available to people ages 6 months and older. There is a charge for vaccinations, and insurance can be billed.

Heidi Wheeler, emergency response coordinator of the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, said she wants the public and volunteers to know the purpose and plan for a mass vaccination event that would protect the people of Keith County during a real event. They also need to be able to carry out that plan. Ultimately, the department wants to make sure residents could get medications in a timely manner.

“There are many diseases that we plan for, most of which are on the Center for Disease Control’s bioterrorism list including anthrax, botulism, plague, Ebola and pandemic flu just to name a few,” Wheeler said. “We’ve done this drill in most of the other counties in our region. Because Keith County is new to the Southwest region, we wanted to test plans here.”

In addition to the flu shots, people can receive free blood pressure screening and information on respite care and emergency preparedness. The process should take 10-15 minutes per person. 
Community members who have concerns about the flu shot should consult their physician.

For more information about this exercise, please call (308) 345-4223. You can also follow us on and Twitter@swpublichealth. Find Ogallala Community Hospital at The health department serves Chase, Dundy, Hayes, Hitchcock, Frontier, Furnas, Keith, Perkins and Red Willow counties.