In an effort to prevent the spread of measles and other infectious diseases, Minneapolis city officials have partnered with NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center and Minneapolis Public Schools to offer free vaccines for children.
Families can go to school district headquarters between Aug. 19 and Sept. 4 and get their kids’ measles shots and other school-required vaccines for free. The immunizations will be provided by NorthPoint with the city covering all costs. No appointments or proof of health insurance are needed.
“There are a number of outbreaks happening either regionally or nationally and those include pertussis, hepatitis A and measles,” said Catherine Harrison, the city’s senior public health specialist in emergency preparedness. “We wanted to put some extra focus on [vaccines] this year and try to make some improvements in those rates.”
This is the first time in recent history that city officials and its partners are undertaking such a large-scale effort to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses. Officials are urging all children who live in the metro area to get their measles vaccines before returning to school in a few weeks.
Measles is a highly contagious illness spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact. It can cause pneumonia, brain damage, deafness and even death. As of Aug. 1, more than 1,170 measles cases have been confirmed in 30 states across the nation — the biggest outbreak since 1992. City and district leaders have been reaching out to families with messages stressing the importance of vaccinating kids and debunking myths that link immunizations, particularly for measles, to conditions such as autism.
In Minneapolis, only 72% of kids ages 2 and 3 are up-to-date on their recommended vaccines, falling short of the 80% threshold set by health experts, said Harrison. A few years ago, a measles outbreak threatened some schools in the state’s third-largest school district and in other neighboring school districts.
“We want to make sure we can do everything we can to prevent that from happening in the future,” said Dirk Tedmon, a spokesman for Minneapolis Public Schools.
The school district will provide free transportation to families from its placement center at 3345 Chicago Av. S. to the district’s Davis Center at 1250 W. Broadway Av., where the free shots are offered.
For a full list of vaccine schedules and other sites where free shots or low-cost immunizations are available, go to minneapolismn.gov/immunize, or call 311.