Since 2017, nearly 5,000 children have received at least one life-saving vaccine through All for Them. And with the project’s recent expansions, that number will only continue to grow.
“It’s especially exciting to be able to expand to school districts that we haven’t worked with before,” said Efrat Gabay, MPH, All for Them’s program manager. “We’re experiencing a real burst of diversity in the populations we’re serving.”
All for Them (AFT), an initiative run by The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health, provides free vaccination clinics at middle and high schools in six districts across the state: Aldine ISD, Crowley ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Goose Creek CISD, Houston ISD, and Spring ISD.
“We’ve been mostly focused on middle schools, and now that we’ve expanded into Goose Creek CISD and Crowley ISD high schools, we’re seeing a lot of seniors,” Gabay said, detailing how the AFT team was able to “close the circle” for students who had started their HPV vaccination series years ago. “This is a life skills approach for these students. They’re learning how to advocate for themselves and protect themselves.”
In AFT’s mobile school-based vaccination clinics, 96.1% of parents with children who needed an HPV vaccine dose consented to the immunization.
“The team has counseled parents for many years now,” said AFT’s principal investigator, Paula M. Cuccaro, PhD, an assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and a researcher at UTHealth’s Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research. “And they do so in such a way that it gives parents the agency to be able to make informed vaccination decisions.”
AFT also includes vaccine resources and a free continuing education course for school nurses.
“For me, some of the success stories are the nurses who are so committed to working really hard to get HPV vaccination into normal practice with their families,” Cuccaro said. “Now we're getting districts approaching us, asking us for information and wanting to be a part of this program. So it really has taken off.”
Just as the number of districts AFT serves has grown, so has the AFT staff, adding members that include a team at the School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.
Funders like the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center -- alongside community collaboration and support from Cuccaro – can all take credit for AFT’s growth, Gabay said.
“The approach that we’re taking -- social marketing campaigns, school-based clinics, nursing education -- each are evidence-based strategies for increasing immunization rates,” she added. “We’re really helping parents to protect their children.”
In the future, Cuccaro looks forward to adapting AFT to serve additional cultures and populations. She also hopes to see the initiative adopted as a standard practice within school districts and health care providers.
“Our goal is to keep people from getting HPV-related cancers in the future,” Cuccaro said. “If we can keep one individual from having to go through what some of the survivors we've met have gone through, to me, that's a victory.”