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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Norfolk Public Health Department
State: VA
Date Added: 12/23/2009
Themes: Communications - Priority Groups
Issue Summary: Free Zoo Day Used to Reach Young Children in H1N1 Vaccination Campaign
Description of Issue(s): The Norfolk Department of Public Health has targeted priority groups since the inception of our H1N1 vaccination program. The Norfolk Department of Public Health and the Norfolk Public School System formed a partnership in September to send nursing teams to all elementary, middle and high schools to offer immunizations to children and eligible staff members. It was our goal early on to visit 57 public schools within the city. In addition to the public school campaign, we were able to collaborate with 18 private schools to host on-site vaccination clinics for their students and staff.

While these partnerships successfully resulted in the immunization of several thousand elementary, middle and high school students, it left a gap in protection for the younger population in daycare and preschool facilities. Early Childhood Programs can be challenging places to prevent the spread of the flu. There are many childcare providers in the City of Norfolk, but it was not feasible to host on-site vaccination clinics at each facility. We then set a goal to develop the best strategies to ensure that this special population, children in daycare and other child care settings, had an opportunity to get properly immunized against H1N1.

Actions taken to address the issue(s): Daycare providers were invited to participate in a focus group to identify the best ways to reach out to children in daycare and other child care settings to administer the H1N1 vaccine. This forum was held on September 28, 2009. As an introduction to the meeting public health staff provided educational information on the H1N1 pandemic. This included information on the H1N1 virus and steps to prevent the spread of infection such as proper hand-washing techniques, cough etiquette and best practices for infection control in the daycare setting. At the conclusion of the session, attendees were given H1N1 educational pamphlets, flyers, leaflets and display posters as well as a DVD copy of the Virginia Department of Health "sneeze in your sleeve" video.

Our vision was to find a creative and unique method to protect children and their families and to minimize the impact of H1N1 in these settings. Daycare providers suggested that a field trip to a central location would be the best alternative to target children in daycare and child care settings. A H1N1 planning team was tasked to identify a child friendly location for the venue. The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk was selected due to accessibility and the entertainment attraction for the children. This represented an unprecedented partnership for public health to vaccinate preschool aged children in the City of Norfolk. This collaboration led to the hosting of a unique and magical event for children to have fun at the zoo and get vaccinated for H1N1 too!

Event: Free Day At The Virginia Zoo and H1N1 Too!

A trip to the Zoo, and helpers in Santa hats! What more could the Norfolk Department of Public Health do to make flu shots fun? Hundreds of Norfolk pre-schoolers, daycare children and providers got a day at the Zoo and the H1N1 flu shot, too.

Four year old Jordan Epps was there with his mom. "I've been waiting for his doctor's office to get it and calling them and waiting for an email, so once I found out about this, we just came," said Lakeisha Cabell.

Sara Dailey couldn't pass up the offer for free admission, a free train ride and a free flu shot. "My kids have both had their first (shot), so they needed their booster and the doctor's office doesn't have it and we didn't know when they would be able to get their second round," she stated.

Outcomes that resulted from actions taken:

Norfolk Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Demetria Lindsay, says partnering with the Virginia Zoo "just made sense; a chance for children to have an educational and fun experience combined with an opportunity to get the vaccine," she noted. This colorful event captured the imagination of children and participants, as they saw the amazing myriad of the Zoo's animals. Some other members of priority groups also took advantage of the clinic. The Virginia Zoological Park provided Free Admission to children, daycare providers and other participants. Free train rides were also offered for participants. The event, along with encouragement of Flumist, was designed to reduce children's anxiety about receiving the vaccine. The Norfolk Department of Public Health provided a team of skilled public health workers and contracted vaccinators who offered vaccinations along with lots of hugs and cheers to small participants. 169 shots and 76 doses of Flumist were administered.

"We take care of our animals. We give them vaccinations, so we loved the idea of doing it for the kids that come here," added Virginia Zoo spokeswoman, Diane Paluzzi.

The Norfolk Department of Public Health will also be returning to public and private schools to offer second doses of the vaccine.

Additional Materials:

H1N1 Vaccination Clinic at the Zoo Flyer

H1N1 Vaccination Clinic at the Zoo Press Release

WVEC TV-13 (ABC) news feature

WAVY TV-10 (NBC) news feature

The Virginian Pilot news feature

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