Kick the Flu Out of School
This post was written by Melody Butler, a pediatric RN and mother of four. As a vocal vaccine advocate, Melody founded Nurses Who Vaccinate and is a Shot@Life Immunization Champion. She recently hosted a Nurses Night Out even to highlight the need for improved global vaccine access and just this morning appeared on Fox5 Good Day NY in support of a new influenza immunization policy for preschool children in the state of New York. We’re grateful for parents and professionals like Melody who continually work to educate others on the importance of immunizations.
Last year 169 children died from influenza. To put that number into perspective, that’s more than six Kindergarten classes. Although flu deaths in adults are scientific estimates, medical researchers know the exact number of children who die from the flu because it is a mandated notifiable condition. And while some of the pediatric fatalities may have had a history of risk factors, such as asthma and diabetes, reports have shown that even healthy children and teens accounted for almost half of deaths attributed to the flu.
Every child is at risk. That’s why it is recommended that children six months of age and older get a flu shot to protect them against the influenza virus. As nurses, doctors and parental vaccine advocates, we aim to educate and advocate for immunizations to protect our patients, children and families. However, sometimes pamphlets and posters can only go so far and we need to think outside of the box.
That’s where Nurses Who Vaccinate, Families Fighting Flu and Voices for Vaccines come in. Through a special partnership, these three public health organizations created a fun and easy way to promote and encourage children and their families to get their flu shots. The “Kick the Flu out of School” concepts centers around a contest that can be held within a school. These three organizations collaborated to create a toolkit that can be used by parents, PTA’s, school nurses and school personnel to help encourage students to get influenza vaccines.
The toolkit features letters and handouts that can be downloaded, edited and personalized to fit a certain school’s needs such as:
- Explanation and directions for school and parent leaders
- Letter to families and students introducing the contest
- Solicitation to local businesses for contest prizes
- Contest entry form for students
Recently, as a member of the safety committee on the local PTA, I hosted a “Kick the Flu Out of School” contest in my children’s elementary school. Local businesses were quite enthusiastic to participate and donated prizes for the children and parents. From ice cream cones, to indoor playground time, children and parents were very excited to be acknowledged for helping to contribute to our community immunity. Many parents explained that getting their children vaccinated was a “no brainier”, but that the contest was an added reminder of how important it is to keep everyone in the family protected. One mother was incredibly supportive and explained how important it was for her asthmatic child to get a flu shot. Not only could her son’s health suffer if he was to get the flu , but the contest encouraged many of his friends to get their flu vaccines, which helps provide him with additional protection for her vulnerable child.
The contest began early in the school year and corresponded with the beginning of flu season. With almost 50 participants, this year’s contest not only helped encourage early vaccination, but it also generated a lot of discussion about the dangers of influenza. Many of the families that didn’t get their shots in time to participate in the contest explained that they still planned on getting the vaccine this season. And it’s not too late for YOU to start planning a “Kick the Flu Out of School” contest in your child’s school! Since flu season has been known to last as late as May, getting a flu shot now will still provide families with at least five more months of protection!
Take advantage of National Influenza Vaccination Week and start up a conversation with your school nurse, PTA board, administrations and staff. Tell them how important it is to protect the children of your community and ask them to support a contest in your school. The attention that you can generate through this contest will not only encourage families to get their influenza vaccines, but it will also encourage families to do their part to help protect the entire community.
If you would like to host a contest in your school and have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me. When you host your own contest, be sure to take pictures and share your experiences.