Getting Medicine in Health Emergencies: EPR - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Getting Medicine in Health Emergencies

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In certain health emergencies, many people may need to get medicine fast to keep them from getting sick. Large supplies of medicine currently are stored in places around the country so that if needed, people can get it fast, free of charge.

What is a medicine center?

It is a temporary place that is set up only in emergencies to give medicine, such as antibiotics or vaccines, to large numbers of people. These centers are also sometimes called dispensing sites or points of dispensing (PODs). Routine medical care is not available at medicine centers.

When are medicine centers set up?

These centers are set up when many people need antibiotics or vaccines to prevent illness. Situations like this are rare, but could occur during a widespread infectious disease outbreak or a bioterrorist attack.

What happens at a medicine center?

Public health staff and volunteers direct people to stations inside the center where they are asked about allergies, current medications or health conditions. This health information is used only to hand out the type of medicine that works best for each person to prevent the disease. All medicine comes with written instructions. Generally, one person may pick up pills for up to nine other people. For vaccines, every person must go to a medicine center.

May people visiting Minnesota get medicine?

All people who may have been exposed or are at risk can get medicine from a medicine center, no matter where they live.

How do people learn where to go?

Medicine centers are set up in areas where they are needed based on the type of disease or amount of exposure. Public officials use news media, government websites and social media to get information about the centers to the public.

Can people get the medicine from a clinic or pharmacy?

Clinics and pharmacies may be busy caring for ill people, and they do not have large supplies of the necessary medicine in stock. Medicine centers have enough medicine for everyone who needs it, and they are designed to get medicine to many people quickly.

What should people do if they have symptoms of illness?

Call 9-1-1 in emergencies. Otherwise, contact a health care provider.

What else do people need to do?
Follow written instructions that come with the medicine. It is important to take the medicine for as long as instructed and to check radio, television and newspapers often for updates. Updates also are posted at

What can households do to prepare?

Think about how to help relatives, neighbors or friends, especially older and vulnerable people get their medicine. Also think about help you might need with transportation or having others get medicine for you. Parents, caregivers and anyone else picking up medicine for others should know those persons’ weights, current medications and health conditions as well as their own.


Updated Wednesday, 30-Nov-2016 13:55:26 CST