Looking for a few good vaccinators

This week, two major state health organizations took steps to ensure qualified health care professionals are available during the upcoming flu season.

On Tuesday, the New York State Department of Health urged health care professionals and other qualified New Yorkers to sign up for an online volunteer registry, called ServNY. The volunteer program is part of Governor David Paterson’s health emergency preparedness plan for recruiting and deploying individuals to provide essential health services during public health emergencies.

The Web-based program collects and verifies contact information, professional qualifications, current health care practice information and other relevant data so that they may be called upon in times of natural disaster, disease outbreak or other such public health emergencies, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said in a statement. “State and county volunteer programs must be prepared to quickly send additional staff and resources when and where they are needed most.”

Most experts in public health agree that flu season, especially following the outbreak of H1N1 influenza earlier this year, represents the most pressing need to organize volunteers.

“We can’t wait until an emergency occurs to recruit volunteers,” said Commissioner Daines. “We need to build the volunteer registry now so that we have a large volunteer base with known credentials and training, enabling these individuals to be deployed quickly during an emergency.”

Picking up where New York left off, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced an “unprecedented” initiative to deputize dentists, paramedics, and pharmacists to help administer vaccines against both the seasonal flu and H1N1 strain expected to return this fall.

According to a report by the Boston Globe, state health regulators also directed hospitals and clinics to provide vaccine to all their workers and some of their volunteers to keep the medical workforce capable of helping others.

“If you have many people coming, you want more lanes open,” Dr. Lauren Smith, medical director of the state Public Health Council, told the Globe. “One of the ways we overcome barriers to immunization is to make it as easy as possible.”

To visit the ServNY Web site, click here

To learn more about the Massachusetts Public Health Council, click here.

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