Chicken sandwiches recently proved a delicious incentive for dispensing dummy Anthrax antibiotics as officials continue to plan for a bio-terrorist attack. St. Charles County Health Authority conducted a drug dispensing drill this week, using a drive-thru fast food outlet as the dispensing point, as well as the promise of a free chicken sandwich to draw a crowd. And it worked.
About a dozen health departments from across the St. Louis area participated in the exercise, which was the region’s first attempt to dispense drugs at a drive-thru station to combat a biological attack.
“We’re basically bribing them to come and drive through the line,” said Gil Copley, director of St. Charles County’s Department of Community Health and the Environment.
Participants will receive a drug bottle that in a real attack would contain an antibiotic or other medicine. In addition, the first 500 will get a sandwich and other giveaways from Chick-fil-A.
Kathy Wilkinson, 55, of St. Peters, said it took her about 45 minutes to get to the end. She read about the drill in the newspaper and since she doesn’t work, decided to volunteer.
Hungry volunteers were not the only challenge officials had to deal with during the exercise however. With temperatures soaring to over 38 degrees Celsius, the heat was an additional health concern. At least one person waiting to get a fake pill bottle was treated by paramedics for heat-related symptoms. Several workers also felt ill. By noon, officials were forced to simplify the process to get people through the line more quickly.
Despite the heat, Pam Walker (St. Louis’ health director) and Dr. Dolores Gunn (St. Louis County’s health director) both said they hoped to learn from the exercise in St. Charles County.
“Distributing a drug to everyone in a county the size of St. Charles, which has a population estimated at 361,000, will be a challenge,” Copley said, “but a drive-through could be an effective way to get it done.”