Aug. 5 clinic will serve as a way for students to meet new immunization requirements and to practice a widespread emergency situation
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Countryside Public Health is taking a new state law and using it for emergency preparation practice.
On Aug. 5, Countryside Public Health, along with a number of emergency responders, school districts and other organizations from the five county area of Lac qui Parle, Swift, Chippewa, Big Stone and Yellow Medicine will be holding a mass immunization clinic at Lac qui Parle Valley High school, both as a way for students to meet new immunization requirements and to practice a widespread emergency situation.
New Minnesota laws regarding daycare and school take effect Sept. 1 of this year. Students going into seventh grade are now required to get meningitis and Tdap (tetanus diphtheria acellular pertussis) vaccinations.
According to Gloria Tobias, of Countryside Public Health, there has been a major increase in pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough. This year alone, there have been more than 200 cases throughout Minnesota, including one infant death. In 2000, the vaccination for whooping cough was altered to alleviate side effects, which may have shortened immunity.
Now, Tobias said, adults are recommended to have pertussis vaccinations as well to prevent potentially spreading the disease to babies, who are at a much greater risk.
In order to match requirements by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), Minnesota enforced the new immunizations law. Tobias said vaccinating all students entering seventh grade puts a tremendous burden on clinics and providers, so to reduce the strain the state is offering free vaccinations to public health organizations.
As an emergency management requirement, Countryside Public Health must be able to provide mass vaccination dispensing in case of a wide spread epidemic.
As a way to resolve the vaccination overload and get mass dispensing practice at the same time, the localized immunization plan at Lac qui Parle Valley was developed.
All 13 school districts in the five counties (Lac qui Parle, Swift, Chippewa, Big Stone and Yellow Medicine) representing Countryside Public Health have agreed to participate in the event.
Administrators from each school district have pledged to provide busses to transport students to the school. Law enforcement, EMTs, emergency managers, the Red Cross and others will be on hand to administer vaccinations as efficiently as possible.
“We have a small staff, so it takes partners to be able to dispense this many vaccinations,” said Tobias.
Tobias added that in the event of an anthrax outbreak, medications would need to be administered to everyone within 72 hours, so efficiency is a must.
Throughout the 13 school districts in the five county region, there are between 400-500 students entering seventh grade. Tobias hopes to have between 100 to 125 students attend.
The project will run from 1:30-3:30 p.m., with staggered drop off times for each school. Once dropped off, students will register - if not pre-registered - then move on to an informational session regarding the vaccinations. Students will then be screened in order to verify whether they can receive the vaccine or not and then will move on to the dispensing area. There will also be a rest area for students after they receive their vaccination.
In all, Countryside Public Health will be providing Tdap, meningitis, HPV (human papillomavirus) and hepatitis A vaccinations.
Tobias said the clinic is also a way for families without health insurance, or for students who are behind on their shots, to get vaccinations. Tobias also hopes to reach a diverse cultural demographic.
Even though vaccinations are a state requirement, students are not forced to get them if their parents are opposed. Parents can sign a waiver stating they do not want their child to be vaccinated.
Countryside Public Health and participating school districts will have more information as the date approaches.