Each October AARP VI staff and volunteers join the Virgin Islands Medical Institute (VIMI) and its partners in presenting CareForce, a free senior immunization health fair which has traditionally provided vaccines and other services to over 3,000 attendees.
The project began 10 years ago when VIMI identified the VI had the lowest immunization rate in the nation. Since that time CareForce has evolved into an annual tradition for individuals, caregivers, government senior centers, and other participants. CareForce quickly became a treasured source of health care for those without health insurance, those with low-income, and the homeless.
Over the years health care professionals have volunteered their time and talents so that CareForce could offer screenings for blood sugar, blood pressure, vision, dental and foot exams as well as educational sessions with pharmacists and diabetic counselors. But we may have seen CareForce’s last territorial fair.
Originally CareForce was an attempt not only to raise immunization rates among the senior population, but to collect data on who received the different types of vaccines. If an entity gives the immunizations yet does not bill the appropriate federal agencies in a timely manner, the immunization statistics are lost. Each year residents returned to CareForce for immunizations and direct patient care and the data has been used to examine trends existing in the VI. The event also provided the opportunity for health professionals to vaccinate persons residing in nursing homes and our homes for the aged without them leaving the facility.
This year’s event was exceptionally efficient. Unlike past years there were few people who had to sit and wait for services to be rendered. The computerized registration process and the “fast track” for working individuals desiring only a flu and/or pneumonia shot dramatically cut down the time required to provide the service and get them back to work quickly. The diabetic counseling sessions were full for each session and this intervention adds to the VI’s diabetes prevention efforts.
What has changed this year is the work being done by the VI Department of Health’s Immunization Clinics. We are all elated that the staff at these clinics have increased their efforts and provided immunization fairs in local malls, drug stores, and other venues. Now that the Department of Health has stepped up to provide this service, the duplication of effort may not be needed allowing the CareForce organizers to set their sights on other challenges in the community.
If indeed this is the last CareForce, its original organizers hope that those who provide the future immunization fairs continue to work cooperatively to collect and disseminate the important statistics for the territory and provide the same prompt service to the participants. It is very important to the territory that we continue to report to Medicare, Medicaid and the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) to fully document the utilization rates for the territory.
Looking ahead, AARP VI hopes that it can continue to be part of the effort to immunize the community because our members enjoy this deeply satisfying volunteer opportunity and the number of participants tell us how much the services are appreciated. If you have some comments about CareForce, please contact AARP VI with your feedback via email firstname.lastname@example.org and phone 340-713-2002.