The local public health agency has released the cost of amping up its immunization efforts in light of two flu-related deaths in a Guelph school earlier this year and is planning to engage with the school boards this summer to improve communication for future crises.
Wellington-Guelph-Dufferin Public Health initiated a community response in February after it was notified that two children who attended the same school in Guelph had flu-related deaths.
In response, walk-in community immunization clinics began Feb. 9 through Feb. 16 at WDG Public Health’s offices in Guelph, Fergus and Orangeville.
The response continued by appointment from February 20 to 26.
Every time the agency faces a situation like this it reflects on how the situation was handled internally and through its partnerships, said Chuck Ferguson, manager of corporate communications for WDG Public Health.
“This event was really unfortunate because two children died in the same school. That led to a level of public concern that we really needed to respond to," said Ferguson.
In total, 3,535 doses of QIV influenza vaccine were provided during the response at a total cost of $64,849.48.
Before the clinics began, WDG Public Health had only 250 doses of QIV on hand in its refrigerators. The Ontario Government Pharmacy couriered 2,000 doses to WDB Public Health immediately to meet the demand.
In a recent report, WDG Public Health said a debrief was held with the Upper Grand District School Board in April in which three key learnings were identified:
- UGDSB needs timely public health information to better communicate with school community
- A lack of understanding between WDGPH and UGDSB needs during a crisis event identified
- A protocol for interagency communication needed
Public Health is planning to work with area school boards over the summer to create a protocol for future school-related public health needs.
“What we want to do is work on protocols if anything like that happens again where there is a public emergency focus on the schools we will have protocols with the school boards,” said Ferguson.
The protocol will support health protection activities for students, teachers, administrators and other school staff during a school-based public health event by:
- Encouraging ongoing, adaptive and responsible partnership between WDGPH and schools
- Facilitating appropriate sharing and disclosure of information in accordance with privacy laws
- Ensuring obligations and requirements of both the school and WDGPH systems are met
- Providing an equitable and consistent approach to the way schools and WDGPH respond to school-related incidents
Breaking down the costs, $54,720.22 of the response was spent on staffing, while $5,839.18 of the cost was associated with clinical supplies. Other costs included mileage, program materials, catering and fees for service.
The total cost of the response has been covered by a one-time grant from the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Ferguson said it is important for WDG Public Health to evaluate how the event was handled, how stakeholders were informed and how public needs were met.
“From the business of the clinics, the awareness messages going out on all media avenues and the engagement on social media, those are markers of success. We don’t rest on our success, we then say, ‘how can we make it better next time?’ and I think working out protocols with the school board will be helpful,” he said.