The City of Norfolk Department of Public Health in Virginia developed a unique program to combine free H1N1 vaccination for children with a free visit to the zoo.
The Norfolk Department of Public Health conducted a series of vaccination clinics at elementary, middle and high schools during the fall and winter of 2009, yet realized that young children in childcare environments were not being reached through this program. The public health department held a focus group with daycare providers to determine the best way to reach and vaccinate this group. Daycare providers suggested that vaccinations be held in a central, public location that could also serve as the destination of an entertaining field trip.
Public health collaborated with the Virginia Zoological Park to offer a program called "The Virginia Zoo and H1N1 Too." Public health nurses provided free H1N1 vaccinations at the zoo on December 16, 2009, for people ages 6 months to 24 years and daycare providers. People who chose to receive a vaccine also received free admission to the zoo, free parking, and a free ride on the zoo train. Public health officials provided both the shot and the nasal spray, along with booster doses for eligible children 9 years of age or younger. Public health staff provided consent forms to parents at the event and made them available for download at the public school district's H1N1 website.
Overall, 245 people participated in the H1N1 vaccination clinic at the zoo, with 169 people receiving shots and 76 people receiving the nasal spray. Several efforts were made to reduce children's anxiety about being vaccinated, including holding the clinic within the zoo and having immunization staff wear Santa hats during the clinic. The clinic was particularly helpful for parents who had been unable to access their young children's booster doses in their primary care clinics. Several parents who attended the zoo event did so because it was the one of the only places where they could obtain a booster dose of vaccine. The clinic also enabled the city public health department to form partnerships with several organizations, including daycare providers and the city zoo. These partnerships allowed many young children to be vaccinated and also paved the way for future activities that promote children's health.