April marks the one year anniversary of the first swine flu outbreak. On Wednesday, the health districts of Alleghany and Roanoke City were honored by the American Red Cross in Heroes Breakfast.
“We are extremely proud to be recognized for the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Autumn Whitcomb, district epidemiologist with Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, in an e-mail interview. “In addition, we acknowledge that the scope of our work is a true reflection of the community’s involvement and support of our efforts.”
Community partnerships were an integral part of the health departments’ response to H1N1. The “comprehensive, flexible” approach included non-traditional vaccination clinic sites. Clinics were held at the Valley View Mall, the Valley Metro Bus Station, and, for students aged 3 to 18, school-based clinics.
By mobilizing vaccine clinics off-site, health officials were able to reach a broader cross section of their residents. Health officials immunized people against H1N1 who were unlikely to have otherwise sought the vaccine, said Whitcomb. At the bus station, the immunization campaign reached people unable to take time from work, the homeless, and low-income individuals.
The health departments formed partnerships with long list of associations and groups, including childcare facilities, churches, day shelters, grocery stories, and pharmacies.
“Using non-traditional sites to hold vaccination clinics allowed us to form new partnerships with organizations and strengthened existing partnerships as we took on the threat of H1N1 together,” said Whitcomb. “This experience can only enhance our combined efforts as we face future challenges.”
In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent assessment of vaccine coverage by state, Virginia ranked slightly higher than the national average—with one in every four people in the state having received the vaccine.