Guest Blog: Bring Santa and they will come…for vaccines?

Contributed by: Jenny Smith, Marketing & Foundation Director, Newport Hospital & Health Services


Rural Pend Oreille County’s exceptional geography shares a border with our Idaho neighbors and community partners (think northeast Washington, jagged mountains and north-flowing river). Our demographics include high poverty and a relatively unhealthy population with increased cases of chronic disease and dismal immunization rates. With that said, in 2014 an incredible collaborative spirit birthed a passionate coalition of individuals pressed with the charge of making our broad community a healthier piece of Washington. Enter Pend Oreille Health Coalition. 

The Pend Oreille Health Coalition kicks off its first collaborative venture in a partnership with the Newport Hospital and Health Services Foundation’s annual Festival of Trees event on December 5. The free event draws families from all over with visions of Santa Claus photos, cookie decorating and the possibility of winning one of a dozen dramatically decorated prize trees (some worth well over $1,000) with a simple $1 raffle donation.

Creativity unleashed as we started thinking about a way to reach local children in need of immunizations and the light bulb beamed—a free immunization clinic during the Festival of Trees! Children who bare a sleeve for their MMR, HepB, Polio, Diphtheria, Pertussis or Varicella vaccines will receive 5 raffle tickets for their troubles and pokes.

We hit the proverbial partnership jackpot when Bethany Osgood of Amerigroup offered her expertise in setting up the clinic with Jan Steinbach (Registered Nurse with Northeast Washington Tri County Health District). Bethany committed Amerigroup for the day, handing out kid-friendly freebees as part of their sponsorship for the Festival of Trees and their participation in the Pend Oreille Health Coalition.

Fast forward … planning is moving at Mach speed: supplies have been ordered, standing orders are being signed, and Northeast Tri County Health District, Family Medicine Newport’s medical assistants, and Newport School District administration are on board. All children, ages 5 to 18 years, will receive requested vaccinations … not to mention, extra kudos and empathy from Santa when they show off their bandages. Check out the Festival of Trees event page

The Pend Oreille Health Coalition is comprised of individuals and elected officials representing: Newport Hospital and Health Services, Northeast Tri County Health District, Pend Oreille County, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Better Health Together, Amerigroup, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington (Conexus Health Resources), Pend Oreille County Counseling Services, Rural Resources Community Action, Newport School District, the Newport Miner, Washington State University Pend Oreille County Extension, and the office of U.S. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.