As in many areas of Texas, Montgomery County near Houston has seen a growing number of conscientious exemptions for mandatory vaccines for schoolchildren.
That’s why Lone Star Family Health Center in Conroe has hosted “Don’t Miss the Bus,” a Texas Medical Association Be Wise – ImmunizeSM vaccination event, every August since 2017.
The back-to-school event, in which kids get shots and parents learn about local resources, is made possible through a TMA Local Impact Grant.
If you’ve seen a decrease in vaccinations in your community – either through conscientious exemptions or during the COVID-19 pandemic – consider applying for a grant to host your own Be Wise event. See below for details.
“Since we started Don’t Miss the Bus in 2017, it has become a great way to turn the frenzy of back-to-school vaccinations into a fun event that helps set up families for success,” said Heather McDonald, grants manager at Lone Star Family Health Center. “Our kick-off event really focuses on connecting families to community resources such as the food bank, parenting classes, cooking/nutrition classes, and after-school activities.”
Following the kick-off, area kindergartners through 12th-graders can get a well check, including vaccinations, at the clinic during a two-week period in August. Last year, more than 312 children attended the event, and more than half were uninsured, Ms. McDonald said.
“We have seen a rising trend of uninsured children who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but don’t enroll because of fear or confusion,” she said. “This makes families even more dependent on programs that put access to preventive health care within their reach.”
The center’s community health workers assist families by helping them navigate the application process for any program for which they might be eligible, Ms. McDonald said. This allows the entire family to obtain services and connect to a medical home, which is the ultimate goal.
Lata Joshi, MD, chief medical officer, said events that focus on underserved children in the community are vital.
“This year, in particular, our event will provide some sense of normalcy for families as they prepare for a school year that could be very different,” Dr. Joshi said.
TMA offers grants of up to $2,500 to support shot clinics or educational events hosted by TMA physicians/clinics, medical students, county medical societies, and TMA Alliance chapters. You can submit an application by July 15 for events this fall or in early 2021. Applicants who host events in areas of greatest need will receive priority funding.
For help planning your free or low-cost vaccination event, check out the Be Wise — Immunize Quick Start Manual: A Step-by-Step Vaccination Outreach Guide and Be Wise Event Ideas. Or contact Tammy Wishard, TMA outreach coordinator, at 512-370-1470.
TMA actively works to improve vaccination rates in Texas through its Be Wise ̶ Immunize program. Nearly 390,000 shots have been given to Texas children, adolescents, and adults since the program began in 2004.
Be Wise – Immunize is a joint initiative led by TMA physicians, medical students, and the TMA Alliance. It is funded in 2020 by the TMA Foundation, thanks to major support from H-E-B and Permian Basin Youth Chavarim.
Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.