Written By: Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, Associate Dean for Student Affairs
There are many steps that people can take to help prevent the flu – washing their hands with soap and water, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and practicing other good health habits. However, the single best way to prevent the spread of this serious illness is to get an annual flu shot.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of people living across the state of Maryland who do not have convenient access to trained health care professionals who can administer their annual flu vaccine. While many schools across the state used to offer clinics that students could attend to receive their yearly flu shot, the funding for these clinics has been cut in recent years for a variety of reasons.
Improving Access to Immunizations
The Maryland Partnership for Prevention (MPP) recognized that students not receiving their flu vaccine at school could have a negative impact on public health. The organization developed a plan and enlisted the assistance of faculty and students at the School of Pharmacy to allow schools across Howard County to continue providing these valuable vaccines to students.
Pharmacists across the state of Maryland have been able to offer immunizations since 2005, and were granted the ability to provide an expanded scope of immunization services in 2011. While staff from MPP coordinated the immunization clinics with the school system and arranged for the necessary supplies, pharmacists and student pharmacists from the School worked to administer the vaccines.
During the month of December, I and two of my colleagues from the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (PPS) – Deanna Tran, PharmD, BCACP, and Tim Rocafort, PharmD, both assistant professors in PPS – accompanied 28 student pharmacists to seven schools across the county. We provided more than 1,000 FluMist® vaccinations to elementary and middle school students who otherwise might not have received this important vaccine.
Celebrating the Value of Teamwork
Teachers and administrators at all of the schools that we visited were incredibly supportive of our efforts. They were very appreciative of our work and excited for their students to attend these convenient clinics to receive their flu shots. The school nurses were also instrumental in helping us organize the students who participated in the clinics.
Because of the hard work put forth by the staff at MPP – who collaborated not only with pharmacists, but also with more than 30 nurses to host similar immunization clinics in elementary and middle schools across Baltimore County – I reached out to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) to nominate the organization for the 2016 Immunization Champion for Partnership award. This annual award recognizes organizations that strive to facilitate partnerships between pharmacists, physicians, nurses, public health departments, and immunization coalitions to address immunization issues and provide immunization services. MPP was selected as the winner for this year’s award, and we could not be more thrilled to celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment with them as they receive the award on March 6 at the APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition.