Monday, August 22, 2011

School-based flu vaccine clinics

Maine CDC has received a two-year, $1.25 million cooperative agreement award from US CDC to enhance the sustainability of school-located vaccination. School-located vaccination clinics (SLVC) were first broadly implemented in Maine in response to the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. Since then, schools and health care providers in many communities around the state have worked together to continue to offer influenza vaccine to students and staff members in the school setting. SLVC can provide low-cost and convenient opportunities for families to have their children vaccinated each year. In addition, achieving high immunization rates in schools can reduce the number of days that students and staff are absent during the flu season and improve the learning environment.

CDC now recommends that all people over six months of age receive an annual flu vaccine as the best way to prevent influenza. Unlike adults, children have few opportunities to get a flu shot, and primary care doctors may not be able to accommodate the high demand for vaccine in their offices. Maine’s influenza immunization rates among children for the 2010-11 season were well above the national average, but too many Maine children still go without an annual flu shot. Providing vaccines to children in the school setting is a strategy that can improve access and decrease financial barriers that some children may face in getting the flu vaccine.

Among the strengths that were noted in the review of this application were the success of previous years’ SLVC; the use of Maine’s immunization registry system, ImmPact2; and the strengths of the partnerships that have been developed at the local level.

In the 2010-11 school year, more than 350 SLVC were held statewide. Clinics were run by school nurses, hospitals, health centers, visiting nurses’ associations, and primary care practices. Maine CDC recognizes the many organizations and individuals who have worked hard at implementing school vaccination. Funds from this cooperative agreement will be used to further these efforts by:

1.) increasing and supporting SLVC over the next two years;

2.) improving mechanisms of insurance reimbursement to schools and health care providers who provide flu shots in the school setting; and

3.) evaluating the impact of school clinics and developing plans for long-term sustainability beyond the funding period.

More information on specific funding initiatives and opportunities related to this cooperative agreement will be forthcoming. General information on influenza in Maine is accessible at www.maineflu.gov.

An online toolkit for SLVC with registration forms, guidance documents, and sample materials has been posted at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/maineflu/h1n1/educators.shtml#schoolclinics

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