University of Minnesota breaks flu-shot world record

Oct 30, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The University of Minnesota on Oct 28 blew past the single-day Guinness world record for administering seasonal flu vaccine, delivering 11,538 shots at four campus locations.

The previous record of 3,271 was set in November 2006 by a hospital in Sanford, Fla., according to a press release from the university, which has campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The flu shots—free to all students, staff, faculty, and dependents age 18 or older—were dispensed by the school's Boynton Health Service with help from the School of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy, the Medical Reserve Corps, and the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Association.

The immunization drive also allowed the university's Medical Reserve Corps to test its emergency plan for quickly delivering vaccines or other medication to the public in the event of an influenza pandemic or other health threat.

Ed Ehlinger, director and chief public health officer at Boynton Health Service, said in the press release that the event was a wonderful success. "Not only have we broken the record, but we vaccinated so many people and raised awareness about the importance of flu vaccines when it comes to the health of college students," he said.

"We needed to find some way to raise the whole issue of immunizations among college students, and we figured what better thing on a college campus than to go after a world record. College students responded to it," he said.

He said the emergency exercise was also a success. "If we need to mobilize our Medical Reserve Corps to deal with an influenza outbreak or a smallpox outbreak, we'll have had the training with this event to allow us to do that," Ehlinger said.

As for world records, a move by a friendly competitor added a dramatic touch. One week before the university's event, the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., the school's neighbor 70 miles to the southeast, announced that it had immunized 7,401 employees in a single day. However, the Mayo Clinic said its goal wasn't to break a world record, according to an Oct 24 report in the Rochester Post-Bulletin that was headlined "Mayo beats U flu-shot record before it's even set."

Priya Sampathkumar, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic, told the Post-Bulletin that she hoped the University and other institutions would top Mayo's total. "We hope this record is broken many times over by medical centers across the country. The message we want to send is for people to get vaccinated, especially children, at-risk adults, and healthcare workers," she said.

Dave Golden, director of public health and communications at Boynton Health Service, told CIDRAP News that the flu vaccination team will probably have its debriefing meeting later, but they have already pulled some useful lessons from the experience. The clinic sites were open from 8 am to 5 pm, but the one located closest to the hospital and clinics should have opened an hour earlier to accommodate the earlier schedules of the healthcare workers, who formed a long line before the site opened.

Also, he said the team wishes it had controlled access to the sites a bit better. Golden said at one point, media cameras were inside the perimeter of one of the clinic tents.

The communication campaign before the event worked well, but as the day drew close, officials decided to send out a Facebook invitation to students and make a YouTube video promoting the flu clinic. Golden said next time, the team will use communication tools like Facebook earlier. "We got 1,000 yeses and about 1,000 maybes," in response to the one social networking request, he said.

The YouTube video shows the University's Goldy Gopher mascot in a lab coat, frenetically chasing students down and pretending to give them flu shots with a comically large syringe.

Logistically, the immunization event went very smoothly, Golden said. Even during the busy times, people got through the process in about 5 to 10 minutes. The team had the capacity to deliver 20,000 immunizations, and they had to make a small supply shift at only one of the sites.

Both the traditional injected vaccine and the nasal-spray FluMist were available. Golden said the team delivered 850 doses of FluMist, which they ran out of at three of the four sites. He said about 40% of the recipients opted for the inhaled vaccine while it was still available.

Golden also invited other institutions to top the University of Minnesota's total. "I can't wait for this record to fall," he said.

See also:

Oct 28 University of Minnesota press release

University of Minnesota flu shot event YouTube video

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