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DHS news release

Dec. 12, 2007

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Bryan Goodin, 971-673-0472

Volunteer project brings influenza vaccine to those in need

As winter approaches, Oregonians are reminded to get their annual influenza vaccination. Supplies are plentiful and widely available at public or private health clinics and local pharmacies, including those located in grocery stores.

But not everyone who needs a vaccination is able to get one. What if you're homeless, have no health insurance, live on a limited budget, are confined at home, speak a language other than English, or have limited access to medical care? People in groups such as these may be most in need of protection against complications of the flu and other adult immunizations.

Now a statewide coalition has stepped forward to help through the Free, Local, Underserved (FLU) project. Their goal is to gather donated vaccine and clinical supplies, then find ways to get them to people who otherwise would not likely get a vaccination.

It's an important but daunting task, says Bryan Goodin, Coordinator of the Oregon Adult Immunization Coalition (OAIC), a public-private partnership that administers the FLU project. "Getting vaccine donations is only part of the work," he said. "There also needs to be a delivery system in place."

Goodin said the FLU project reaches people in need through its connections with a variety of agencies that work with underserved populations. These agencies include a variety of non-profit groups, local health departments, community coalitions and churches. If an agency does not provide medical services, OAIC will recruit volunteers to give the vaccinations. It also partners with area nursing and pharmacy schools so students can get clinical experience in a supervised setting.

This year the FLU project anticipates giving 3,500 doses of vaccine to clients of more than 34 agencies across Oregon. Eight professional schools are providing volunteer students to vaccinate. More than 60 clinics will deliver adult and child influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccinations.

OAIC began more than 10 years ago as a close-knit network of nurses and pharmacists. Today it has more than 400 members and is guided by a 15-person steering committee. Next year, its non-profit status will allow OAIC to provide tax benefits to donors and volunteers. All OAIC members are volunteers except Goodin, who is an employee of the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.