Immunization Event Aims to Curb Flu and Hep A Cases
By Mario A. Cortez
Efforts to curb the number of deaths from disease preventable through immunization began this Tuesday with the first vaccine clinic of the 2018-2019 flu season.
Community health nonprofit Champions for Health, in association with the County Health and Human Services Agency, the San Diego Housing Commission, and United Healthcare, held its inaugural vaccination drive at downtown’s Central Library from 2 through 5 p.m., which offered free flu and hepatitis A shots on a walk-in basis to the public.
Vaccines for this event were provided by the County at no cost, and the medical professionals administering the vaccines were all volunteers.
In a press release, Champions for Health Executive Director Adama Dyoniziak stated, “Our immunization clinics are one of the best ways we carry out our mission of improving health and changing lives. County medical professionals volunteer their time to give the vaccines, so with the County and the Housing Commission, we are able to reach the greatest numbers of people.”
Volunteer coordinator Andrew Gonzalez said to La Prensa San Diego that the event location was chosen strategically to deliver hepatitis A vaccines to the large homeless population in the area, especially after the outbreak of this disease last year.
“There is a large homeless population here, and it is within walking distance of their tents and homes,” he said.
San Diego’s hepatitis A crisis, which lead to over 500 confirmed or probable infections and killed 20 homeless individuals in the downtown and East Village area, began with cases being recorded in in March 2017.
Due to used needles and fecal matter acting as vectors for hepatitis A, homeless individuals in this area were disproportionately affected by this outbreak.
The outbreak lead to a state of emergency declaration from the County on Sept. 1 of last year. Since then, efforts to vaccinate homeless individuals and the installation of portable restrooms and handwashing stations were undertaken to reduce the propagation of this disease. The County lifted the state of emergency status in January of this year.
Last year’s flu season was the most severe on recent record in San Diego County. The 2017-2018 flu season, which ran from July 2017 through June of this year, yielded 20,833 total doctor-confirmed influenza cases, with 320 of these cases leading to intensive care and 342 deaths. The total cases recorded in the 2017-2018 period nearly tripled compared to 2016-2017 season, with deaths also increasing by nearly 400 percent.
According to a press release, Champions for Health administered 2,063 flu vaccines at free clinics last year, as well as 900 free hepatitis A vaccines given to at-risk individuals in response to the hepatitis A outbreak last summer.
Champions for Health will continue to provide vaccines through a number of upcoming events and clinics in the community, including the Mexican Consulate’s Binational Health Week celebration.