As the New Orleans school system began to re-open its doors after Hurricane Katrina, one of the many difficulties it faced was the loss of records—including health records—for returning children. Most of the school records were lost or destroyed in the storm, and it was not possible to determine how many children were appropriately immunized. In an effort to remedy this, the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, with the support of AmeriCares, implemented the School Kids Immunization Program (SKIP), an initiative that included an examination of available records, followed by a large scale vaccination program involving numerous city schools.
SKIP went right to the schools and provided the shots—for free—that many parents could not obtain because of limited resources, lack of transportation or inability to leave work. With AmeriCares funding, the program has been in effect through two school years and has enrolled more than 7,400 students.
“The SKIP program was extremely successful this past year,” said Charmaine Allesandro, the executive director of the Greater New Orleans Immunization Network. “The participating schools and parents were very appreciative of our efforts. Working parents were overwhelmed with gratitude since their children were able to receive their immunizations at school.”
This project has been a valuable public health effort that has protected children against 16 serious childhood diseases, including diphtheria, meningitis, mumps and chicken pox. Prior to SKIP, the percentage of students appropriately immunized was just 15 percent, with another 15 percent of students having no records at all. By the end of this year, the level rose to 85 percent, exceeding the national average.