This year on Election Day, voters at two polling places in Santa Clara County will have the opportunity to receive flu shots.
Vote and Vax is a national program (www.voteandvax.org) that has been providing vaccines at polling places across the nation. However, November 2, 2010 will mark the first time that a Vote and Vax clinic has been organized by a medical school.
The initial idea to organize a Stanford medical student-run Vote and Vax clinic was conceived in 2008, fittingly enough, at an influenza vaccination training session for first-year medical students. Ultimately, Shah Ali, Duy Dao, and I, all Stanford medical students, partnered with Adjunct Associate Professor Walt Newman, M.D. to transform our idea into reality.
The statistics on influenza are staggering. Up to 60 million people come down with the flu each year in the United States. About 200,000 people are hospitalized each year, and unfortunately 20,000-30,000 people die as a result of the flu. The numbers speak for themselves and are reason enough to promote immunizations in the community.
Vote and Vax appealed to me for a number of reasons:
- Collaboration: The collaboration between a number of different organizations reflects an overall commitment to promoting health. The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Stanford physicians, Stanford medical students, and the National Vote & Vax Program have been essential in making these clinics happen.
- Patient Education: The opportunity to teach voters about influenza is a unique one. The Vote and Vax clinics reflect a chance to empower people to not only receive the vaccine themselves but to encourage their family members and friends to do the same.
- Medical Student Education: From my perspective as a student, enabling medical students to have direct patient interactions, particularly in the community, is of immense value. As future physicians, it is imperative that we recognize the importance of preventive medicine and moreover, that we consider creative and innovative ways to deliver medicine. Vote and Vax does just that – it allows us to immunize people who may not otherwise receive a vaccine.
I cannot understate the value of awareness and education in promoting community health. It is my hope that in the years to come, Stanford School of Medicine continues to support the Vote and Vax clinics. As students, our collective vision is to see Vote and Vax expand to additional polling places throughout the Bay Area. We, moreover, hope to encourage medical students at other U.S. medical schools to become involved in the effort and engage their local communities.
The two Vote and Vax clinic locations are:
- Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 2020 E. San Antonio St. in San Jose
- Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, 2751 Louis Road in Palo Alto
All Santa Clara County residents are eligible to receive the vaccine. The vaccinations will be offered at $15 each, which is the whole sale vaccine cost. For those who cannot afford the vaccine, it will be administered for free.
Jessica W. Tsai is a 3rd year MD/PhD student at Stanford School of Medicine.