Healthcare News & Insights

Vote & Vaccine: Key to preventing the next epidemic?

Avoiding the next epidemic could be as simple as vaccinating people at their polling places.

That’s the intriguing theory put forward in a recent New York Times editorial by Douglas Shenson, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

Working under the theory that U.S. polling places are already equipped to process 130 million or more Americans in a single day, Shenson, his colleagues and local public health agencies staged a trial run during the ’08 election.

With prior approval of the local election boards, the teams offered flu vaccinations to people who filtered through polling places in 42 states and Washington, D.C. In one day, they were able to vaccinate more than 21,000. The vaccinations were available to anyone who came, whether or not they voted — or were even eligible to vote.

In many ways, the polling place-as-vaccine-clinic idea has a lot of selling points: The locations are already widely known and accessible in their communities. In particular, they are useful in reaching rural populations.

But before this could become a wider program, Shenson admits some kinks would need to be worked out. For starters, roughly one-third of polling places aren’t accessible to people with disabilities — some of whom would undoubtedly be in the high-risk groups that vaccination programs would be most interested in reaching.

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