January 9, 2004

Repulse Bay students help to repel the flu

Job-shadowing Grade 9 girls aid in massive vaccination


Of Repulse Bay's 700 residents, 560 received their flu vaccinations and few have fallen ill, thanks to door-to-door visits by community nurse Maria Fraser and three Grade 9 students. (PHOTO BY PATRICIA D'SOUZA)

Maria Fraser

The flu and its coughs and fever weren't part of the recent holiday celebrations in Repulse Bay due to a vaccination campaign conducted by nurse Maria Fraser and three eager Grade 9 students.

Last month, Fraser asked Maggie, Sarah and Marsha, who were at the local health centre for job-shadowing during their school's "career week," to help her administer flu shots to as many residents as possible.

"I said, how about we go house-to-house and you help us," Fraser said.

One of the girls had the job of explaining to kids how they wouldn't get sick over the holidays if they received a flu shot.

"The other girl said, 'The shot doesn't hurt. It's just like a scratch, but it makes you feel healthy and you can play in the snow,'" Fraser said.

The third girl was responsible for keeping a list of residents up to date, crossing off names as people were inoculated. She also handed out candy to kids after they received a flu shot.

Fraser and the girls first visited those who were at high risk for a bad case of the flu - children with a history of lung problems, and the elderly. Then they visited the school and even stopped by the local grocery store, where customers were encouraged to roll up their sleeves for an on-the-spot flu shot.

After they finished, about 560 of the community's 700 residents were inoculated.

Fraser said the impact of the flu shots has been easy to see as only a few people in Repulse came down with the flu.

"It's not the sort of thing you can do in Iqaluit," said Dr. Sandy MacDonald director of medical health at the Baffin Regional Hospital. "But it shows a real dedication to the cause."

"That's very good proactive work on the part of the nurses," said Ed Picco, Nunavut's minister for health and social services. "I think it's great. It shows really good leadership on the public health side of things."

There has been another benefit to the home visits, as well. The three students told Fraser that they'll willingly give her a hand again in the future and are keen to work in community health after finishing school.