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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: El Paso County Department of Health and Environment
State: CO
Date Added: 08/04/2010
Themes: Vaccine Planning and Administration
Issue Summary: Using Partnerships to Organize Vaccine Clinics
Description of Issue(s):

The El Paso County Department of Health and Environment is located in Colorado Springs, CO, and serves a population size of about 624,314 in both urban and rural areas. El Paso County is the second largest populous county among the 64 in Colorado, second to Denver. Health Department staffing is under 200 full-time equivalents, which is well below the median when compared to other “like” health departments serving similar population sizes. Our local health department was successful in using the National Incident Management structure (NIMS) to respond and organize community partners and assets to minimize and protect residents and visitors of El Paso County during the H1N1 flu pandemic. All Health Department employees were assigned a role in the H1N1 response using NIMS.


Actions taken to address the issue(s): A new contagious flu virus never seen or experienced before, first referred to as ?Swine flu,? then novel H1N1, started spreading illness from person-to-person around the globe in April 2009. We responded quickly by activating the Department?s emergency preparedness plans, mobilizing community partners, and managing disease tracking systems, vaccine distribution and education outreach efforts with the shared goal of preventing and limiting the spread of disease. We planned and implemented innovative vaccine outreach efforts including ongoing clinics held at The Citadel, which is a shopping center located in central El Paso County and held many clinics in rural and other convenient locations for residents. We partnered with Peak Vista Community Health Centers to use their Ronald McDonald Care Mobile and the Visiting Nurse Association to hold clinics in different parts of the county until demand for vaccine dramatically declined. Much appreciation goes out to our employees and community partners including the city and county, military installations, hospitals, schools, the El Paso County Medical Society, the Crisis Communication Network, local news media, Medical Reserve Corps., American Medical Response, The Citadel, The Hangar, New Life Church, Harrison and Coronado high schools, and community volunteers?the response wouldn?t have been as effective without the commitment and dedication in supporting local public health. In El Paso County, there were 13 reported H1N1 flu-related outbreaks with 801 people ill in 2009. We know that there was far more disease in the community than was reported and most people with H1N1 flu infection were able to manage their illness at home. Preliminary data shows 220 reported hospitalizations due to H1N1 flu (May 1, 2009 through April 14, 2010), which peaked in mid-October during the second wave of the pandemic. The previous flu season, from October 2008 through April 2009, peaked in early March 2009 with a total of 96 hospitalizations reported for that season.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: Although there were initial challenges of delays in the receipt of vaccine, we were able to vaccinate a total of 8,262 individuals at the five large-scale H1N1 community clinics we organized. We managed more than 178,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine for distribution into the community. We feel we have achieved a high level of community support that helped assist with the success of making H1N1 vaccine available and convenient to all that were interested in receiving this protection and have strengthened key partnerships that will have long lasting benefits for public health protection for many years to come. Many compliments were received by the Health Department for running very well organized events that met the community?s needs.

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