159266 Flu Shots at Polling Sites: Partisan Politics or Public Health?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007: 8:48 AM

Oyeba Akyea, BA, MBA , Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Houston, TX
According to the State of Texas, influenza was one of the top ten causes of death in 2000. The City of Houston conducted a “Vote and Vaccinate” project to address this public health issue. Unfortunately, it was perceived as a “get out the vote” drive in Democratic neighborhoods. Houston's experience marked the first political opposition towards the concept of administering vaccines at polling locations.

The City of Houston mobilized influenza clinics during the two week period when Texas voters may chose to vote early. This was funded partly by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and coordinated by the Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration as a creative outlet for local health departments to reach vulnerable populations. Four polling sites were selected in federally designated Medically Underserved Areas, neighborhoods with low income, neighborhoods with relatively high voter turnout, and areas with higher concentrations of senior citizens.

Initial reaction to the program from the general public was positive. However because of political and conservative talk radio attention, clinics were moved way from polling sites. Ultimately, 1,600 vaccines were distributed to people over 50 years old; a third of which had stated that they were unlikely or not sure if they would have received an influenza inoculation if not at the “Vote and Vaccinate” site.

This presentation will review Houston's project for an analysis on local political reactions, project perceptions, and resolution of political and ethical dilemmas involving public health activities during the actual voting process.

Learning Objectives:
1. Participants of this presentation will learn how public health projects may be perceived differently by various political groups. 2. How to design public health programs to mitigate potential political reactions.

Keywords: Immunizations, Politics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.