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Keeping Young Students Healthy with Free Flu Shots

Kaiser Permanente’s Teach Flu a Lesson program increases access to flu vaccinations at participating elementary schools in underserved communities.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu causes more hospitalizations among young children than any other vaccine-preventable disease. The best way to protect this vulnerable population against flu and its potential complications is with a flu vaccination, and Kaiser Permanente is making it easier for students in some Southern California school districts to gain this protection. Through the Teach Flu a Lesson program, children at participating elementary schools are offered the flu vaccine for free, with parental permission, regardless of insurance status. Getting vaccinated reduces risk of illness and missed school days and helps create healthier schools and communities.

The Teach Flu a Lesson program involves Kaiser Permanente and a partnership with 15 local nursing schools and the California Department of Public Health. Nursing students administer the vaccines at the elementary schools as part of their degree requirements, and Kaiser Permanente organizes and leverages the manpower to help ensure the most vulnerable communities can reduce their risk for infection during flu season. Participation in the Teach Flu a Lesson program also offers a benefit to parents by eliminating the need for them to take time off from work to get their children vaccinated.

“Vaccinating school children against influenza is the most important thing we can do to keep kids healthy and decrease school absences during flu season. More importantly, protecting school kids with the flu vaccine prevents them from bringing the flu home and spreading it to their younger, more vulnerable siblings and to older adults who are at the highest risk of serious complications.”

--David Bronstein, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist, Kaiser Permanente

Teach Flu a Lesson was launched in early October and will continue through mid-December with 131 schools at 14 school districts in the following areas: Antelope Valley, South Bay, and Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Internal risk mapping, a method used to identify below-average flu vaccination rates in Kaiser Permanente membership, enabled the targeting of specific geographic locations for vaccination outreach. Additionally, children, who live in some of these areas, come from low-income families and may be at even greater risk for flu since their access to health care and preventive vaccines is often limited.     

“The flu is more dangerous than the common cold for young children because their immune systems are still developing,” said Lisa Buffong, MPH, associate medical group administrator, Southern California Permanente Medical Group. “Every year, millions of children get sick with the flu, many are hospitalized, and some even die due to complications from the flu. The Teach Flu a Lesson program helps increase access to flu shots in the communities that need it most, and we’re very proud of the work being done to ensure these students are protected.”

For the latest updates and recommendations regarding the flu, please visit the Kaiser Permanente or CDC websites.

To learn more about Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s work in the community, please visit http://community.kp.org.