Older voters in select cities and towns on Election Day will have the chance to cast their ballots and fight the flu at the same time. Flu vaccine clinics will be stationed next to polling sites in 26 communities across the nation on November 7 as part of the "Vote and Vax" initiative, a public health program designed to make it easier for those 50 years and older to protect themselves during the flu season.

The program is supported by a $320,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted to improving the health and health care of all Americans. Launched in 1996, the Vote and Vax initiative targets communities across the country in which flu shot delivery rates are typically low. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all Americans ages 50 and over receive annual flu shots to help limit the spread of the influenza virus. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to the disease, which kills more than 32,000 people over age 65 every year, making it among the most prevalent killers of older Americans.

"Influenza is one of the deadliest wintertime diseases and yet is also one of the most easily preventable," says Jane Isaacs Lowe, Ph.D., senior program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "The Vote and Vax initiative is a creative and effective way to provide flu shots and other important public health services for the members of our society who need them most."

The Vote and Vax program is directed by Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration (SPARC), a Connecticut-based community health program. Since the program's inception, SPARC has expanded the number of participating sites during each successive election cycle. On this Election Day, the program will operate sites in 26 U.S. cities in 17 states, the largest effort to date.

"This is a simple, convenient way for older adults to get their flu shots," says Dr. Douglas Shenson, president of SPARC. "You don't have to vote to get vaccinated, but for a lot of Americans, the convenience of casting a ballot and protecting yourself from the flu at the same time is an attractive option."

Those wishing to receive a flu shot at Vote and Vax clinics can pay on-site or by showing a valid Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance card along with legal identification. In addition to flu shots, sites may also be able to provide vaccines against other common diseases, such as pneumonia, hepatitis, and tetanus.

For details about which cities will host Vote and Vax clinics, see the list below. For more information, contact Evan Burness or Laurie Hawkins.

Public Health Offices:

* Clinica Sierra Vista Grand Forks CA

* Central Coast VNA and Hospice Monterey CA

* San Francisco Department of Public Health San Francisco CA

* Garfield County Public Health Rifle CO

* VNA of Southeastern Connecticut Waterford CT

* Jefferson & Madison County Health Departments Monticello Madison FL

* Polk County Health Department Bartow FL

* Lowndes County Board of Health Valdosta GA

* Louisa County Public Health Wapello IA

* Community Health Center Partners of Sioux County Orange City IA

* Southwest District Health Caldwell ID

* Central District Health Department Boise ID

* Clay County Health Department Flora IL

* Whiteside County Health Department Rock Falls IL

* Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Cass Lake MN

* Saline County Health Department Marshall MO

* Monroe County Health Department Paris MO

* Lewis & Clark City-County Health Department Helena MT

* Cherokee Indian Hospital Public Health Cherokee NC

* Grand Forks Public Health Department Grand Forks ND

* Omaha Tribe of Nebraska Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center. Macy NE

* Erie Center on Health & Aging Erie PA

* Bethlehem Health Bureau Bethlehem PA

* Galveston County Health District La Marque TX

* City of Houston Dept of Health & Human Services Houston TX

* Tooele County Health Department Tooele UT


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 30 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit rwjf/.

SPARC (Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration), is a nonprofit agency committed to developing new approaches to delivering preventive medical services. The organization is focused on broadening access to immunizations, cancer screening, and the prevention of heart disease and stroke. SPARC was founded in 1995, beginning its activities in a 4-county area in southern New England. The organization's projects have made a significant impact on the delivery of preventive services in the region, and SPARC has garnered awards from national, state, and local public health organizations. The agency is supported through partnerships with medical care systems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as local, regional, and national philanthropies, including The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Contact: Evan Burness
Burness Communications

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