Caption: From left to right: Krista Venalainen, Maia Wong, and Emily Chan.
1,661 students. 30 staff. 48 clinics. The numbers alone speak to the amazing work undertaken by Richmond's public health team to catch up on student immunizations missed in the 2019/2020 school year due to COVID-19.
While the immunization program is normally planned over the school year, COVID-19 took over. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) made a regional decision to ensure immunizations were up-to-date in order to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. In advance of a potential second wave of COVID-19 and the 2020/2021 flu season, the public health team embarked on an aggressive campaign to immunize students in kindergarten, Grade 6 and Grade 9.
“In a very short amount of time, our Richmond public health team shifted from their regular work and pivoted to help support our immunization catch-up program," says Monica Needham, Manager, Public Health. “We had over 30 staff from various disciplines all pitch in to help us achieve our goal and support the success of this initiative." Public health nurses, allied health and program assistants were all part of the community-wide campaign.
Despite challenges in setting up clinics in a short period of time, creating new workflows and ensuring the clinics all met COVID-19 infection prevention and control protocols, the team demonstrated flexibility, which was crucial to meeting their target of immunizing as many children as possible.
“It really was a collective, collaborative effort," says Monica, explaining that the team had to overcome many obstacles such as not having access to regular processes through the school district and finding a location that could accommodate large numbers of appointments.
But their hard work paid off! Latest counts show that 1,661 students or 82 per cent of children, received their vaccinations in the month-and-a-half time frame. The team also implemented online tools — such as the Jane online booking system — to make scheduling easy and convenient for parents and guardians to do from their computer or mobile device.
“Congratulations to our Richmond Public Health team for their success with this large undertaking," says Marta Filipski, Director, Public Health and Primary Care. “It was great to see so many of our team members — from child and youth, communicable disease and harm reduction, to dental, falls prevention program assistants, and clinical informatics — come together to provide exceptional care to our community. Thank you to everyone for your incredible work to help all the students complete their immunizations so we can keep them safe from communicable disease."
While the team has now successfully immunized the previous year's students, work now begins to immunize children in advance of next year's school year. With flu season and an anticipated second wave of COVID-19, the team is working proactively to immunize as many children as possible from July to October to continue to keep the Richmond community safe.
For more information on the VCH-wide immunization catch-up campaign, visit vch.ca/summerimmunizations.
From left to right: Elaine Swindell, Rosa Lau, and Ying Wang
From left to right: Annette Gateley, Lillian Teh, and Emily Chan.