Updated September 2020
It is important to connect with schools or other community programs/places where children congregate, including Head Start and other early care and education programs, community centers, before- and after-school programs, camps, and youth-sports organizations, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is circulating in addition to influenza virus. Connecting with programs that provide care to children is critical and provides opportunities for health care professionals to provide accurate information about influenza prevention and promote the need for everyone, especially high-risk populations (eg, underlaying medical conditions such as asthma, neurological diseases, and obesity) to get vaccinated. Local public health departments and immunization coalitions are great community partners when implementing mass vaccination clinics. Read below for ideas on working with these important community partners.
Pediatricians can obtain contact information for school nurses and medical directors in local schools as well as child care health consultants or Head Start health managers. Reach out to these programs to inquire if you can include a flu vaccine flier in new student packets, hung in the school office, or on a bulletin board, or included in a school newsletter or email. Assure these personnel that your goal is to provide general information on the importance of receiving an annual flu vaccine, with instructions to contact the child's medical home/local physician as needed; not to advertise your practice.
Do the same for after-school programs, childcare centers, and camps or youth-sport associations, such as the YMCA. The task can be daunting, especially in larger cities, but it will be a project well worth the effort. Start by deciding on a mile-radius you will focus on and try to obtain as complete a listing of community partners as you can. If you collect child care, school, and before- and after-school care information on your patients at well visits, you should be able to run a report that can provide you with the schools or programs used the most by patients in your office. The first time you create your list of community programs to connect with will be the toughest; during subsequent years this will get easier.
Designate a "Flu Vaccine Expert" at your practice setting. This should be an appropriately qualified staff member who can serve as a contact person for the schools and community organizations to which you have reached out, to address questions on influenza vaccine availability, safety/efficacy, vaccine shortages, dose recommendations, steps the practice is taking to safely deliver care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so forth.
As a health care provider, you can serve as a resource for community vaccination programs, such as after-hours flu vaccination clinics, curbside/drive thru flu vaccination options, school-based or school-located vaccination clinics, community health fairs, or mobile flu clinics.
Key topics to cover include:
Keeping patients/families and staff as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The importance of providing documentation about influenza vaccine administration to the patient’s medical home.
The need for a child, age 6 months through 8 years of age, who is vaccinated for flu for the first time (to receive 2 doses of the vaccine, 4 weeks apart), and how to ensure that the second dose is received.
How to follow proper vaccine storage and handling practices in all facilities where vaccines are administered, including mobile locations.
Appropriate training to administer vaccine to children based on the most recent up-to-date AAP recommendations (eg, appropriate needle gauge and length).
Ensuring that parental consent for each child to be vaccinated is properly documented.
Documenting the distribution of the appropriate Vaccine Information Statement and vaccine administration in the patient record and the immunization information system.