University of Maryland School of Pharmacy Participates in National Vote & Vax Effort
On Election Day 2010, people who went to the Langley Park-McCormick Elementary School polling site in Prince George's County found that they could do more than vote - they could also get a free flu shot. Students from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy administered free flu shots at the adjacent Langley Park Community Center as part of a nationwide pilot program called Vote & Vax, which is designed to help improve the health of all Americans.
The local community outreach project was organized by the School's American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists and the Student Section of the Maryland Public Health Association. Vote & Vax was designed to help meet the needs of Prince George's County residents and demonstrated the changing role of pharmacists to be more focused on direct patient care through avenues such as the administration of life-saving vaccines. Prince George's County has been identified by state health officials as an area with typically low vaccination rates. The students and their faculty mentors provided influenza vaccinations for 153 individuals, including 42 persons who received the flu shot for the first time.
"I am extremely thrilled that the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy has been able to partner with the Prince George's County Health Department to host the first Vote & Vax event in Maryland," said Janet Shaw, a fourth-year student pharmacist and co-organizer of the event. "Our intent was to provide flu shots to a population with historically low vaccination rates while demonstrating that pharmacists have expanding roles that include health promotion and disease prevention."
The free flu shots provide protection against the seasonal flu as well as the H1N1 flu virus. Each year, as many as 60 million people in the United States come down with the flu. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and more than 36,000 people die as a result of the flu. The majority of those who die are adults age 50 and older.
"Through our student pharmacists' vaccination efforts, they are playing a vital and important role in ensuring that the public health needs of Maryland's citizens are met," said Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, dean of the School of Pharmacy. "Their outreach in Prince George's County is commendable and consistent with their focus on community engagement, a commitment they will surely continue as practicing pharmacists."
Approximately 30 pharmacy students and immunization-certified School of Pharmacy faculty staffed the Vote & Vax event, in cooperation with the Prince George's County Health Department and the Langley Park Community Center. The flu shots were provided by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
"When I first read about Vote & Vax, I thought how beneficial an initiative like this could be in our community here in Maryland," said Tina Dang, a fourth-year student pharmacist and Vote & Vax co-organizer. "With such a large underserved population, it is common to hear people complain that they can't afford a flu shot, or don't have time to get one. Many did not know the risks they were exposing themselves and their loved ones to by not receiving flu shots. Fueled by the fact that pharmacists can give immunizations themselves, I realized that this is very much something within our realm as pharmacy students."