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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Boston Public Health Commission
State: MA
Date Added: 01/26/2010
Themes: Vaccine Planning and Administration
Issue Summary: Leveraging the strength of Boston's Network of Independent Community Health Centers.
Description of Issue(s):

As the first wave of H1N1 flu began to ebb in Boston, public health planners barely had a chance to catch their breath as they looked to the fall and winter flu season. They, like their counterparts around the country, faced a daunting task of providing flu vaccinations to more residents than ever before. Launching a mass vaccination campaign in the best of times is difficult, however these were not the best of times -- due to the economic downturn, many public health departments were under great stress due to cuts in funding and personnel. To meet the demands of mass vaccination on such a short timeline, the backbone of the BPHC's strategy involved one of the city's greatest strengths--its network of independent, non-profit, Community Health Centers (CHCs). Rather than creating public Seasonal and H1N1 Flu vaccine clinics from scratch throughout the city (with all the logistical challenges that poses) the Commission leveraged the infrastructure of the city's 26 health centers located in all but two of Boston's sixteen neighborhoods.

Actions taken to address the issue(s): Utilizing a staff sharing agreement, put in place through Boston's Metropolitan Medical Response System, BPHC was able to supplement health center vaccinators with nurses from area hospitals at seasonal public flu clinics hosted at the health centers. Paramedics from Boston Emergency Medical Services served as supplemental vaccinators for the health centers at public H1N1 clinics. CHC flu clinics were open to all people recommended for vaccination, whether or not they were health center patients. Health centers are trusted sources of care in the communities they serve. That trust has been an important asset as the health officials have dealt with vaccine supply problems and community resistance to the vaccine itself.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: The strategy has resulted in a stronger preparedness relationship between health centers, hospitals, public health and EMS.

More than 45,000 doses of flu vaccine were delivered through the community health centers in just a few months.

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