Flu vaccinations test public health readiness

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Mass vaccination clinics to protect against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus offer public health officials a chance to hone their procedures and prepare for future emergencies, according to a University of Maryland expert.

"It's like a preseason game for public health officials," said Jeffrey W. Herrmann, a University of Maryland engineering professor who's developed software used by public health officials to plan the logistics of vaccinating thousands at a single location in a matter of hours.

"These vaccination clinics give public health officials a chance to execute their plans in a real-world situation, unlike the exercises they've been practicing, and then to improve them before a more dangerous threat appears," Herrmann added. "Experience and good planning are essential to saving lives when public health officials must respond to a deadly infectious disease."

Herrmann's software is one of the models recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use by public health officials in planning mass vaccination clinics.