His family members and friends got inoculated at their doctors or druggists. But James Paul, 65, got his shot at the West Tisbury school, without so much as leaving his car.
Mr. Paul parked his Subaru Outback, rolled down his window and rolled up his sleeve on Saturday to receive 0.5 ml of influenza vaccine. His dog, Betty Boop, also a resident of West Tisbury, stuck her nose over the front seat to oversee the minute-long procedure as a nursing student applied antiseptic to his shoulder, and inserted the needle.
Mr. Paul was one of 265 Islanders who participated in the first drive-through flu clinic at the West Tisbury school on Saturday. Another 350 got vaccines at a drive-through in Waban Park in Oak Bluffs.
The clinics are a regional effort to prevent the spread of flu virus, which hit the Island hard last winter. Island pharmacies ran out of flu vaccine, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital hosted an emergency free clinic to meet demand.
This year two weeks earlier than usual, dozens of volunteers from the Island boards of health, visiting nurse association, police, emergency services and medical reserve corps, conducted clinics at the two sites. They say the drive-through is an efficient way to administer shots to many people.
For about a decade, flu shots were given annually at the high school, starting with a walk-in only clinic. Over the years, the drive-through portion grew, so that in recent years most Islanders have been vaccinated in the comfort of their own vehicle. “We were finding that people weren't very enthusiastic about the walk-in,” said Matt Poole, health agent in Edgartown. This year, organizers opted to host the clinic in two towns to increase accessibility for residents, especially those up-Island.
“It's a nice thing for the whole Island to do together, plan and work together,” said Nancy Nordin, a nurse and the clinical supervisor for the site. “It's great that they can come and get their shot and not contribute to a flu epidemic.”
The clinics give organizers an opportunity to practice a drive-through model that they say they'd employ if a pandemic ever hit the Island.
“The idea is that if people were truly sick, you'd want this social distancing thing, where people don't have to congregate,” Mr. Poole said. “So this would serve that purpose.”
On Saturday, Mr. Paul wasn't the only one getting moral support from a canine companion. Mufasa, a pomeranian, nuzzled her owner, Helene Barr, as they waited to be motioned forward to the medical tent. “I think it's fabulous,” Ms. Barr said, as she pulled off a sweater to prepare for the shot. “It helps the public take their health seriously . . . and keep us healthy, and it doesn't get any better than that.”
The clinic was busy during the first hour of the clinic, prompting organizers to open up three lanes to meet demand. “When we opened up three lanes, it went fast,” said Marcia Denine, a registered nurse with the Vising Nurse Association. The next hour brought a lull in traffic, before cars returned in greater numbers near the noon closure. The walk-in clinic, for cyclists and pedestrians, saw 30 patients. Organizers said attendance exceeded last year's clinic at the high school. Kids not yet in high school were not given shots at the clinic because pediatric shots have a different dose of vaccine.
“That's a first time experience for me, but I think it's a very good idea,” said Jeffrey Kominers of West Tisbury, who waited in line with his wife Terri. “It sounds very efficient.” Last year, Mr. Kominers got his shot at the doctor's office.
Cape Air flew the Cape Cod Community College nursing students to the clinic free of charge Saturday morning, giving them much-needed experience with immunization. “We don't get a lot of opportunities to practice, so this is a really good opportunity for us,” said Rebekah Stallings, a nursing student. “I think working hands-on is the best way to learn."
“It's really good practice for the community as well, for what do you do if there is a real epidemic, or a real problem,” said Superintendent James H. Weiss, who served as public information officer at the clinic.
First-timers were asked to park near the Tri-Town ambulance for five minutes following the immunization to allow medics to monitor their response to the vaccine. When a car pulled up with multiple patients, the nurses administered shots from both sides.
As Ms. Barr's car neared the nurses' tent, Mufasa stuck his nose out of the driver's side window. “He thinks whenever I drive up anywhere, they might hand him a cookie because they do it at the bank and the gas station, and the dump,” she said.
But this time, the treat — a flu-free winter— was all hers.