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Collaborative effort helps bring flu shots to youth served by Places for People

With help from community partners, Places for People’s Child, Youth and Family Services program hopes to double the number of flu vaccines it provides this flu season.

In each of the past two years, Places for People has provided about 20 vaccinations to youth served by the program, according to Places for People Youth and Family Nurse Care Manager Terri Winning Verry.

“We’ll double the amount of shots we give this year,” Winning Verry said. She is stressing the importance of the vaccine this year, primarily because of its effectiveness, but also because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said it is more likely students will be sent home if they show flu-like symptoms, which could create added stress on the entire family.

Winning Verry, who started at Places for People in June 2017, has spearheaded the flu vaccination initiative the past three years.

“This is a very targeted effort and very important in our community,” Child, Youth and Family Program Manager Mike Lamping said. “While many may take access to vaccinations and health care for granted, Teri and the team see first-hand how many of our children and families still experience barriers to getting  even the basic care they need because they do not yet have durable relationships with a primary care physician or clinic. Without targeted efforts like this, and the ongoing work of our Health Care Home program to see that lasting connections with healthcare providers are made, most of these children would not have the benefit of the protection that the vaccination provides.”

The initiative includes an informative in-service for clinicians in the Child, Youth and Family Services program provided by Dr. Rachel Shakofsky of St. Louis Children’s Hospital Specialty Clinic. Dr. Shakofsky serves as Pediatric Physician Consultant for Places for People’s Youth Healthcare Home program.

The in-service provided information about the importance of getting a flu shot, and also the latest recommendations due to COVID-19.

Dr. Shakofsky has also updated Winning Verry and Advanced Practice Nurse Trish Hill on the latest recommendations and policies for providing vaccinations during the pandemic.

Members of the Child, Youth and Family Team are recommending to their families that they get the vaccine in the community through a physician’s office or clinic.

For those who don’t have access to another provider, Winning Verry and Hill are providing vaccinations to youth where they are. In previous years, vaccinations have been provided mostly in the office, but COVID-19 has made that impossible.

“It’s so fast,” Winning Verry said of the vaccinations that she has provided, primarily on front porches. “We follow all of the precautions and are in and out in a second.”

While the actual shot takes only moments, Lamping points out that Winning Verry has put a lot of work into the initiative behind the scenes.  “There is a lot of thoughtful planning and preparation that Teri has put into this effort over the past 3 years,” Lamping said. “It’s a great example of community collaboration.”

A major part of that collaboration has been St. Louis Pharmacy. The Pharmacy, owned by Devin Dalpoas, provides the vaccinations. St. Louis Pharmacy is a longtime partner of Places for People, and has a site on PFP’s campus that has remained open throughout the pandemic.

Dalpoas said that at the pharmacy’s main location in the Central West End and the site at Places for People works primarily with adults, so it feels rewarding to directly help youth in this initiative.

“St. Louis Pharmacy helps our people out in a jam,” Winning Verry said.

Being part of a team effort like this exemplifies what Winning Verry enjoys about working at Places for People. She said so many people pitch in to make the program a success from Medical Director Dr. Meredith Throop to program manager Mike Lamping to Hill, who is a “prescriber who is willing to put on her scrubs” to help.

She said it’s an opportunity to “do something that makes you feel good.”