Vaccination program provides protection for students
Some fidgeted, others held hands with friends, some lay down, and some just smiled all the way through. This was the scene at Acadia University during student vaccination clinics for serotype B meningococcal meningitis.
"It was wonderful to see how students supported and encouraged each other in this situation, especially given the high level of concern and knowing that needles can cause anxiety," says Kim McGill, content lead, Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. "People were really attentive to the messages we shared and the response rate showed that students wanted to protect themselves.”
The on-campus vaccination clinics were setup following two confirmed cases of serotype B meningitis among the student body in February. One of the students passed away from the illness.
As this particular vaccine has two doses, vaccination clinics happened in two rounds, the first in February and the second in late March and early April.
Public Health Services in Annapolis Valley, along with many others from the health authority, worked very closely with the Department of Health and Wellness and Acadia University to respond quickly with information about the virus and to organize the clinics. The clinics had nurses from Annapolis Valley, Halifax, South West and South Shore health authorities, with volunteers from Annapolis Valley and Acadia also providing support with student registration, greeting and recovery.
“Partnerships made such a positive difference in how we were able to respond,” McGill says. “This was the first time we’ve had an institutional outbreak of meningitis in Canada and there are great lessons we’ll be taking away and documenting.”
Public Health held information sessions in residences and other campus locations and Acadia’s campus health services disseminated information and met with students, and its department of Student Services, along with the Students’ Union, used online and other media to encourage students to get vaccinated. Public Health provided posters and operated a toll-free number, answered by a public health nurse, to answer questions from students, faculty, staff and parents.
Susan Mesheau, vice-president of Enrolment and Student Services at Acadia, says that working with and supporting Public Health made a significant impact on how students, parents, and others in the Acadia community were able to process information and events.
"This was a challenging time for our students, their families, and the Acadia community in general. Our long-standing partnership with the health authority and how we worked together not only set the tone for the handling of the situation in the short term, but has provided the opportunity for Public Health to conduct conversations with the post-secondary education sector about approaches in the longer-term.”
Public Health officials have deemed the vaccination clinic response rate a success, noting that the rates of vaccination mean strong protection for the student body population – 85 per cent of students attending class on campus received their first dose of vaccine while 70 per cent received the second dose. With Acadia University’s support, Public Health will continue to provide opportunities for students to receive the second dose when they return to campus in September.