Vote & Vax clinics across the United States will increase flu vaccination rates
Published: Oct 15, 2008 Lakeville, Conn.
During this year’s national presidential election, more than 125 million Americans are expected to pass through polling places—and two-thirds of them are likely to be age 50 and older. To take advantage of this unique opportunity, more than 250 flu shot clinics will be taking place at or near polling sites, including some early voting locations, across more than 35 states and the District of Columbia.
The clinics are part of an innovative nonpartisan, nonpolitical national public health strategy called Vote & Vax, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration (SPARC).
A 2008 national survey commissioned by SPARC reveals that nearly half (46%) of adults age 50 and older in the U.S. would be more likely to get a flu shot if it were more convenient for them.
“Increasing the number of people in this country who are able to conveniently receive an influenza vaccination is a proven way to protect the health of thousands of people in this country,” says Douglas Shenson, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of SPARC. An estimated 36,000 people in the United States die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year as a result of the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults aged 50 and older get an annual influenza vaccination. For the 2006-2007 flu season, far less than half of adults (36%) aged 50 to 64 and less than two-thirds (65.6%) of those aged 65 and older received an influenza vaccination, according to available CDC data.
“Vote & Vax is a common sense strategy for ensuring that the people who can benefit most from flu shots get them when they need them,” said Jane Isaacs Lowe, Ph.D., senior program officer at RWJF.
Launched in 1996 by SPARC, the Vote & Vax project was established as a project to increase access to the flu vaccine, with a focus on reaching older Americans. In 2006, with additional support from RWJF, SPARC directed a multistate effort to assess the usefulness and practicality of replicating this approach on a larger scale. That year, the pilot program took place at 127 polling sites in 14 states. Nearly 30 percent of individuals vaccinated in the pilot program had not received a flu shot in the preceding year.