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Study: Drive-Thru Clinics Safest, Most Efficient Method For Mass Vaccination

Drive-through coronavirus vaccines are administered at University Mall in Tampa on Jan. 21, 2021.
Drive-thru coronavirus vaccines are administered at University Mall in Tampa on Jan. 21, 2021.

Researchers used data from the swine flu crisis and applied the same modeling to the coronavirus pandemic to determine drive-thru clinics are the best way to approach vaccination.

Researchers in Oklahomalooked at swine flu vaccine data to find the best way to distribute the coronavirus vaccine.

The answer appears to be the way most vaccines are being done in Florida: drive-thru clinics.

Scientists from Oklahoma State University and Vanderlande Industries used data from the swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, to model a pathway for safer, more efficient coronavirus vaccinations.

“A vaccine is a vaccine,” said Sunderesh Heragu, one of the study’s authors. For our modeling purposes, it doesn't matter whether it's a vaccine for H1N1, or whether it's a Moderna vaccine for COVID-19.”

Heragu says drive-thru clinics in the parking lots of large retail stores and stadiums make it feasible to administer 350 million vaccinations in 100 days. That's 200 million more than President Joe Biden pledged.

So, in one stadium parking lot, with five tents, you can vaccinate 1,000 people per hour. In an eight- to 10-hour period, that’s 10,000 vaccinations per day, per site. There are 20 cities with a population of 750,000 or more. There are 350 cities with a population of 100,000 to 750,000.

Of course, that is assuming it’s a 7-day-a-week operation and there are enough supplies, nurses and people to administer vaccines. There would also need to be adequate freezer storage for the vaccines, not to mention the logistical and traffic nightmare of scheduling 10,000 vaccines at one site per day.

Drive-thru vaccination is quicker, safer, and less confusing, Herugu said. Plus, it’s just more convenient for the average person who is used to commuting to work or grabbing fast food.

"I think people kind of prefer, you know, being their car because they're used to it already," he said "You know, that's how they get their breakfast sometimes and order coffee, or do their dry cleaning."

He notes that walk up clinics should not be eliminated entirely. People with certain disabilities - or who take public transportation - rely on those to get vaccinated.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.