Vaccines are in the news, on the minds of parents, in commercials, and on Oprah’s couch. Childhood vaccination has been bolstered by recommendations developed by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices with the participation and consensus of the nation’s medical professional organizations. It has been institutionalized as a part of pediatric practice.
Ideally, vaccines are administered at doctor’s offices that serve as each child’s “medical home” for comprehensive primary care. However, alternative delivery methods for vaccines are being studied. As a result, the CDC is funding research to find new ways to deliver certain vaccines to those in settings other than the doctor’s office. That’s why I’m excited to be part of an innovative project that we hope will protect more children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
A group at the Denver Health and Hospital Authority is conducting a pilot project investigating the feasibility of administering influenza vaccines where children spend most of their time — at school. But first a little background to help you see why I believe this pilot project is needed. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent many infectious diseases, which place our children at risk and are often spread throughout communities. Influenza is a good example. In 2009, the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices recommended that all children aged 6 months through 18 years begin receiving a seasonal influenza vaccine every year. These recommendations for children to receive flu vaccine are still relatively new, so coverage is not high yet. And because flu vaccination is not year-round, it places a burden on pediatric and family physician practices. For these reasons, this project is a good idea.
Reaching Children Where they Spend Much of Their Time
This project aims to make it easy for parents to have their children vaccinated to prevent influenza. Influenza can be dangerous, even deadly, for children, so the safe bet for protecting children is to get them vaccinated. If parents cannot get children to their doctor’s office, we have a way to bring those same services to you! The project has several components:
• Setting up immunization clinics in schools.
• Creating a system for parents’ consent for vaccinations.
• Billing private and public insurance payers to minimize family expenses.
Schools have been proposed as a potential venue for quickly immunizing large numbers of children. For the Denver pilot project, we will conduct one-time clinics. The clinics will take place at the school and children will be immunized for the flu based upon parental consent, provider report of the child’s immunization history, and their medical history. Vaccinating kids at school would cut down on healthcare costs to parents (a doctor’s visit) as well as the inconvenience to parents from taking kids to the doctor’s office. Doctors are notified when a young patient of theirs is vaccinated so that this can be added to the child’s medical record. In addition, the state registry is updated, and parents are given an updated history for them to take to their child’s doctor.
On a given day, a team of nurses, health paraprofessionals, and public health program managers will arrive at a Denver public school armed with cotton balls, consent packets, and colorful cartoon bandages. The clinics can include a slow trickle or a long line of students (Click here for Denver Post article). By vaccinating students against influenza, this program supports the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation for universal flu vaccination for all children. At the same time, it promotes a new and easy way for parents to protect their children against the flu.