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Pete Giesen: Health priority targets vaccine-preventable disease

Posted on Post-Bulletin: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 8:27 am | Updated: 8:27 am, Wed Sep 17, 2014.

Last year, a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment was conducted jointly by Olmsted Medical Center, Olmsted County Public Health Services, Mayo Clinic and numerous community organizations. The assessment provides a broad view of our current and future health and identified five top priorities that will be addressed over the next five years.

Improving vaccination rates and reducing vaccine-preventable diseases is one of our priorities. Olmsted County Public Health Services, Olmsted Medical Center and Mayo Clinic are working together to design programs and strategies to reduce vaccine-preventable disease. One of those efforts relates to annual influenza vaccinations.

In the past, influenza vaccinations focused on the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Then the message shifted to include all adults, not just the elderly, needing an annual vaccination. A few years ago, the recommendations broadened to include everyone older than 6 months to receive an influenza vaccination. Today, more emphasis is on school-aged children for two important reasons.

First, school-aged children serve as a source to larger communitywide outbreaks. Studies show vaccinating school-aged children dramatically reduces hospitalizations and deaths from influenza in the elderly.

Second, school-aged children have higher rates of influenza infection than other age groups. While they do not suffer the higher rates of hospitalization seen in infants and the elderly, they do suffer from missed days at school and additional trips to the clinician. Parents also are affected when they need

Robert M. Jacobson.jpgto take off work to be with their sick children.

This year, for the sixth year in a row, the county's public and private schools will hold influenza vaccination clinics. This effort represents year-round planning from its collaborators at Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, Olmsted County Public Health Service and the county's public and private

schools. Parents can be assured the nurses giving the vaccines are the same nurses their children see at their clinics and the vaccines given are the same vaccines given at their clinics.

It is difficult enough for families to maneuver all the school and after-school activities in the fall, and yet, getting the influenza vaccine on time is important. The school-located vaccination clinics solve that problem for parents. They should watch for their children's schools to provide information about registration. Parents should sign up online if they can. Otherwise, paper forms are available. The registration process will help parents determine whether their child can take advantage of the nasal mist form of the influenza vaccine and whether their child has any reason not to get the influenza vaccine at this time or at least at school. Timely and convenient influenza vaccination of our school children has a major effect on their health and the health of the whole community.

It is difficult enough for families to maneuver all the school and after-school activities in the fall, and yet, getting the influenza vaccine on time is important. The school-located vaccination clinics solve that problem for parents. They should watch for their children's schools to provide information about registration. Parents should sign up online if they can. Otherwise, paper forms are available. The registration process will help parents determine whether their child can take advantage of the nasal mist form of the influenza vaccine and whether their child has any reason not to get the influenza vaccine at this time or at least at school. Timely and convenient influenza vaccination of our school children has a major effect on their health and the health of the whole community.

For everyone else, there are several locations around our communities that offer the influenza vaccination. Locations include local pharmacies, Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, satellite health and FastCare clinics, and public health. Many area businesses contract with health providers to come directly to the office to ensure a healthy workforce during the long winter flu season. For locations and times, check the community calendars, provider websites or try the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

Thanks go out to the parents and schools who have participated in these clinics. These efforts have helped keep our Olmsted County community healthy.

Pete Giesen is the director of Olmsted County Public Health, Dr. Robert Jacobson is a Mayo Clinic physician, and Dr. Indrani Chaudhry is an Olmsted Medical Center physician.

Filed under: health work product
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