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Homeland Security

U.S. Naval Hospital holds pandemic shot exercise

US Marine Corps News

9/2/2011 By Lance Cpl. Alyssa N. Hoffacker, Marine Corps Bases Japan

CAMP LESTER, OKINAWA, Japan — U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa held a shot exercise, or SHOTEX-11, Aug. 22.

The exercise, which lasted 48 hours, used actual vaccinations during the scenario and simulated the response to an island-wide pandemic.

“The purpose of this exercise was to test our ability to vaccinate as many personnel in 48 hours (as possible) and to have documentation of it,” said Cmdr. George J. Semple, the director of public-health services at the hospital.

SHOTEX-11 was directed by the chief of naval operations to determine how quickly the hospital could respond to a pandemic, and hospital personnel learned several things from the exercise, said Semple.

“We now have a better understanding of how much staff, sites, vaccines and other supplies we would need if this were a real incident,” said Semple.

This year’s flu vaccine was used during SHOTEX-11 to simulate a vaccine for a pandemic disease, said Semple.

“We received two massive shipments (of the vaccine) from the vendor, which (accounted for) about 70 percent of the year’s quota, enough vaccines for about 19,000 people,” said Semple.

Even though the flu vaccine was distributed at the exercise, service members, families and Department of Defense employees will still be able to receive this year’s vaccination, said Semple.

In addition to getting a head start on vaccinating against the flu, the hospital simulated implementation of some of its emergency procedures during SHOTEX-11.

“Immunization of our military and mission-essential personnel is the most important part of the preventive phase in our pandemic planning,” said Mike Liem, the emergency manager for the hospital. “The more people we have inoculated, the better our chances of containing a pandemic influenza incident during the response phase.”

SHOTEX-11 presented the opportunity to evaluate the procedures and work out any flaws that could become an issue in a real emergency scenario, said Liem.

“One of the biggest challenges of this exercise was accounting for all personnel, identifying who was immunized, who was not immunized or were exempt,” said Liem. “This is a labor-intensive, time-consuming process that required great effort from our data-entry teams, which they managed to do with 100 percent accountability and accuracy.”

Though this was the first time the hospital conducted an exercise in this manner, it proved to be worthwhile, according to Semple.

"Whenever you try something new there is a huge learning curve," said Semple. "We are better prepared for the future."

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