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Defending the Homeland: WRNMMC Operates Drive-Up Immunization Clinic

Nurse giving a shot to a girl; both wearing masks Lindsey Minto, a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) beneficiary, receives an immunization in the WRNMMC’s Drive-Up Immunization Clinic.

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A nurse at Walter Reed National Miitary Medical Center prepares an immunization for a WRNMMC beneficiary.

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Allergy and Immunology Service began the Drive-up Immunization Clinic on May 11 to continue to serve beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The clinic is set up outside of the main hospital building to prevent the possible spread of the novel coronavirus within the hospital.

The Drive-Up Immunization Clinic is located in the temporary tent structure in the parking lot for Building 85T north of the America Building (Building 19); and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The clinic offers all immunizations given in the indoor clinic, including PPD (purified protein derivative) testing for tuberculosis, according to Army Col. (Dr.) Brian D. Robertson, Allergy/Immunology consultant to the Surgeon General and chief of Allergy and Immunology Service at WRNMMC. 

A nurse wearing a mask with needles in a tray
A nurse at Walter Reed National Miitary Medical Center prepares an immunization for a WRNMMC beneficiary.

“Our patients and parents of children were delaying immunizations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we asked parents why they were delaying immunizations, the answer was that the hospital was viewed as slightly unsafe because of the risk of COVID-19 infection. Low rates of immunizations increase the risk of disease outbreaks, especially measles and pertussis (whooping cough). Our goal is to increase our immunization rates,” Robertson stated.

Two pediatric staff and four immunization clinic staff members provide services in the clinic. “The pediatric staff are weighing and measuring children that missed these measurements in March and April because they had telemedicine well-child visits,” Robertson explained.

He encouraged parents and others to maintain their immunization health during COVID-19. “Other diseases have not gone away, and we need to keep preventing those other infections by immunizing ourselves and our children,” Robertson continued. “All screening and waiting are done in the [beneficiary’s] car. For some adults, we can deliver the vaccines in the car and the patient does not have to get out. Our immunization areas are cleaned and sterilized between patients, and staff members wear PPE [personal protective equipment] designed to protect them and the patients. All patients/parents must wear cloth or surgical masks for these appointments.” 

As long as patients continue to use it, the Drive-Up Immunization Clinic will remain in operation, Robertson stated. “We are still operating our indoor clinic, and if we find that patients are not using the drive-up clinic, we will stop using it. We are also using our experience to prepare for the annual influenza vaccine drive this fall and hopefully, a COVID-19 vaccine flu drive in the future. We anticipate that both of these vaccine drives will require social distancing,” he concluded.

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