Published Wednesday, August 2, 2023

OCOA receives grant for vaccination programNational Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held to highlight and educate on the importance of routine vaccinations for all ages, from infants to the elderly.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinations are responsible for the eradication of countless diseases formerly prevalent in the United States. Fortunately, due to decades of research, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies, vaccines have reduced and, in many cases, eliminated diseases which have killed hundreds of thousands of infants, children, and adults, over the years.

In our lobbying efforts to support immunization programs, the Osceola Council on Aging was one of only six organizations in Florida to be awarded a Community Action Grant to support an expansive vaccination outreach program. This grant, given by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), has designed a COVID-19 and Influenza Uptake Vaccination initiative for seniors and disabled adults.

The NCOA is a nonprofit advocacy group which focuses on programs which improve the lives of older adults through policymaking. This initiative specifically focuses on making a positive difference for older Americans whose health may already be compromised and need vaccinations.

According to the NCOA, this is the first time the organization has received a grant to administer vaccines. Nationwide, they expect to give 300,000 vaccinations, with nearly 7,000 of those for Florida residents.

“COVID is still a major issue for older adults who have lower immunity. We are partnering with local organizations (across the US) as they are trusted messengers in their communities, and every population needs to be addressed in a unique way,” said Josh Hodges, NCOA Chief Customer Officer.

“We specifically looked for organizations which work with underserved populations, those who are traditionally hard to reach, and for whom national information campaigns might not resonate,” he added.

The primary target population includes seniors and individuals with disabilities, with an additional emphasis on low-income, African American/Black, Latinx, women, LGBTQ+ populations, and rural sub-segments of the community.

“By becoming immunized, we all help reduce the risk to which unimmunized individuals are exposed to diseasecausing agents,” said Chris Hougland, Osceola Council on Aging, Senior Vice-President of Health Services.

This program, which begins at the end of August, will be implemented through the OCOA Health Clinic, and in partnership with Prescriptions Unlimited, an Osceola County based pharmacy.

“Providing vaccinations to residents in multiple settings supports the OCOA’s Health Clinic model of providing quality and accessible healthcare,” said Eric Larson, owner of and pharmacist at Prescriptions Unlimited. “We are proud to be a small part of the positive impact that the Osceola Council on Aging brings to the community. We believe these services and programs are of huge value and we will continue to build upon that work with this Community Action Grant from the National Council on Aging.”

These clinics will also give participants an opportunity to discuss the need for additional immunizations, including influenza, pneumonia, the shingles vaccine and Tdap boosters to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

Finally, for those unsure of the need for immunizations, according to the National Institutes of Health, routine vaccinations not only protect us from bacterial infections and viruses, but also help stimulate the immune systems to produce immune responses, while providing a safe, cost-effective means of preventing illness, disability, and death from infectious diseases.

For more information, contact Kelly Bender, OCOA Clinic Care coordinator, at (407) 846-8532, ext. 1218, for program details, vaccine clinic dates, and times.

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