Immunizing Children for Life

UCSF nurses are part of a new project designed to ensure that children are immunized in time to start school. A cadre of pediatric nurses, including Laurie Nathan, RN, are volunteering their time to participate by giving the immunizations, and child play therapists are helping the children understand why they need these shots and to get comfortable with getting them. Project LIFE, short for Let's Immunize for Education, is a pilot program of the Mayor's Office of Community Development's Project Connect initiative. The Mayor's Office intends that the program increase the number of children receiving immunizations. This pilot, if successful, will be used to link San Francisco's low-income and fragile children to immunizations in their own communities. "Every child deserves a healthy start in life and the opportunity to start school on time," says Mayor Gavin Newsom. "We must protect our most vulnerable children. The combination of low immunization rates for our youngest children and high school drop-out rates for our adolescents is an unacceptable confluence of factors, especially in a neighborhood where this administration is deeply committed to productive change."
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom introduces a new immunization program with UCSF nurse Laurie Nathan and Maralie Yearby. Photo by Myrna G. Giannoulis.
Health reports suggest that preventable childhood diseases seem to occur more frequently in the neighborhoods targeted for the program. Cross-referencing census data and school enrollment data implies that there is a segment of the population that did not enroll in kindergarten due to the lack of appropriate immunizations. The lack of immunization can lead to a delay in school enrollment, and studies show this can affect a child's overall educational success. While there are a number of public health informational campaigns aimed at increasing awareness around the need for immunizing young children, this does not always translate into families' getting their children immunized. The project will connect children and families to the health screenings they need to enroll and be successful in school. The Department of Public Health (DPH) was integral to this project. DPH staff provided the vaccines and assisted in identifying primary care clinics in the target neighborhoods where parents can go for follow-up and pediatric services if they do not already have a primary care provider. A Collaborative Effort "This effort will target those children and families often disconnected from mainstream health campaigns due to geographic isolation," explains Dwayne Jones, director of the Mayor's Office of Community Development. "It makes sense for us to collaborate with UCSF Children's Hospital, the school district, the Community Partnerships Program at UCSF and other departments, so we can maximize resources to ensure that all of our children get their necessary immunizations and parents understand why they are so vital," Jones says. Roxanne Fernandes, executive director of UCSF Children's Hospital, says that UCSF Children's Hospital is proud of its partnership to improve immunization rates for San Francisco's children. "Immunization is the single most important thing we can do to protect a child's health," she notes. The Community Partnerships Program, a part of UCSF Community and Governmental Relations, believes this effort fits well with the University's public service mission and the hospital's mission of providing health care to children. "This is an opportunity for UCSF and the Children's Hospital to reach out into the community and, at the same time, provide a meaningful volunteer opportunity for staff," says Lisa Gray, coordinator of the Community Partnerships Program. The project focuses on children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old to ensure that their immunizations are current, thereby allowing them to enroll in kindergarten and first grade. Eleven- and 12-year-olds can get their tetanus booster. TB testing also will be available for children in these age groups that require the test. The clinics will take place at four schools in the target neighborhoods during the first week of school. Clinics will begin today, Monday, Aug. 29 and continue through Thursday, Sept. 1, from 8 a.m. until noon. On Tuesday, Aug. 30, the San Francisco 49ers mascot will make an appearance to help the children get over the anguish associated with shots. Clinics will be open at the following San Francisco public schools: Bret Harte, 1035 Gilman Ave. Dr. George Washington Carver,1360 Oakdale Ave. Malcolm X, 350 Harbor Road, and Visitacion Valley Elementary, 55 Scherwin St. Source: Lisa D. Gray