Puerto Rico: Hurricane Maria Relief
Influenza Vaccinations Administered: March 5-17, 2018
April 24, 2018
Marisol Espinosa and Deanna Boulard
Summary of Activities
Now fully mobilized, RMF Puerto Rico has been continually providing health outreaches throughout rural and urban areas most impacted by Hurricane Maria, focusing our efforts on inland towns where health services and support are most needed. Thanks in part to the donations received from Direct Relief International (DRI), we have been able to provide free influenza vaccinations to 563 patients in the first two weeks of March, including many children and the elderly. Through a separate outreach event, also supported by DRI’s donation, we have provided 20 patients with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and multivitamins.
During these two weeks, RMF Puerto Rico held outreaches in the urban areas of Dorado, Toa Baja, Comerío, Bayamon, and Guaynabo, as well as the rural areas of Vega Alta, Vega Baja, Corozal, Morovis, and Jayuya. We visited detox units, communities, nursing homes, town squares, clinics, churches, and housing developments, where people received the influenza vaccinations they need to stay healthy during this flu season. Thanks to the donation from Direct Relief International, we will be able to continue offering these vaccines, as well as essential medicines, to the community.
RMF Volunteers and Staff Facilitate Outreaches
The first four outreaches were carried out by volunteer Registered Nurse Jeanette Crespo and volunteer Sheila Alvarado, while the second four outreaches were facilitated by additional team members as needed, including Marisol Espinosa (RMF admin), Dr. Emilio Rivera (RMF coordinator), and Lucia Otero (volunteer).
Health Fair and Immunizations in Dorado
Dorado Town Square Health Fair:
The largest of these outreaches began at 9:00 AM on March 8, 2018. This town is a tourist destination with a population of about 38,000. Dorado only has one health facility, which is a center for diagnostics and treatment.
Dorado Municipality Public Work Department:
At 1:30 PM that same day, March 8, 2018, RMF’s team visited the Dorado Municipality Public Work Department, where we immunized 21 public workers against influenza. As part of the Dorado Municipality, employees of the Public Work Department maintain the good condition of all public roads and bridges, hydraulic systems, groundwater, public lands, and registers, among others. Their work is especially important as the area recovers from damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria.
Immunizations Given at Nursing Home and Housing Development
On March 9, 2018, volunteer Registered Nurse Jeanette Crespo visited Hogar Janick, a nursing home for young people with intellectual disabilities run by the Health Department. During this outreach, 10 patients were immunized against influenza.
Hacienda El Molino Housing Development:
The next morning, March 10, 2018, at 9:00 AM, our team visited this housing development in Dorado, a residential housing development where many families in the Dorado area live. At this location, 13 patients were immunized against influenza.
El Verde Community in Comerío:
This second week of influenza immunization outreaches began at 9:00 AM on March 12, 2018, in the El Verde Community of Comerío. This community is located in the northern area of Puerto Rico’s Cordillera Central mountain range, where residents live with few economic resources and still do not have electricity or drinking water six months after Hurricane Maria. We were able to immunize 40 community members against influenza in this location.
Immunizing Vulnerable Populations
Detox Teenager Unit in Guaynabo:
On March 14, 2018, starting at 9:00 AM, we carried out an influenza immunization outreach at a rehab center for teenagers in the Guaynabo area who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Here, we immunized 18 young people against influenza.
Guavey Community in Jayuya:
Later that morning, starting at 10:00 AM, we held a second outreach. This community is located in the mountainous center region of Puerto Rico, where there is a lot of poverty and residents still lack electricity and drinking water six months after Hurricane Maria. In Guavey, 8 community members were immunized against influenza.
Way of Living Nursing Home in Bayamon:
At 1:00 PM that same day, March 14, 2018, we visited a nursing home located in a northern coastal valley of Puerto Rico. The nursing home is for the elderly and provides food, cleaning services, recreational activities, medical services, and nursing services to its residents. Here, we immunized 9 elderly patients against influenza.
Christ Disciples Church in Vega Alta:
On March 16, 2018, we began our fifth outreach of the week, starting at 9:00 AM. This church is located on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, where it is attended by a large congregation and has been serving the community for over 100 years. At this location, 10 community members were immunized against influenza.
Dr. Jorge Cedeño Office Clinic:
RMF Puerto Rico’s largest outreach to date took place here on March 16, 2018, starting at 9:00 AM. This clinic belongs to Dr. Jorge Cedeño and is located in the town of Toa Baja, close to the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Many patients are assisted here on a daily basis, and we were glad to boost the clinic’s services through this outreach, immunizing 228 patients against influenza.
Vega Alta Clinic:
Later that same day, RMF Puerto Rico held a different type of outreach, this time distributing over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and multivitamins to community members, starting at 3:00 PM at the Vega Alta Clinic. This is one of the main clinics supported by RMF as part of our Hurricane Maria Relief program. The Vega Alta Clinic provides health services including pediatric services, community pharmacy, cardiovascular services, ambulance services, ER, x-rays, laboratory tests, and services for the elderly. The outreach was made possible thanks to supplies received from Direct Relief International (DRI). 20 patients were provided with over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and vitamins through the Vega Alta Clinic outreach.
Alto de Cuba Community in Vega Baja:
On Saturday, March 17, 2018, starting at 2:00 PM, we conducted the week’s last influenza immunization outreach in the Alto de Cuba Community of Vega Baja. This is a community where homelessness and drug addiction are prevalent, and both problems have been exacerbated by the destruction of Hurricane Maria. At this location, we were able to immunize 45 patients against influenza.
On September 20, 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit the US territory of Puerto Rico. The winds, 155 miles per hour at landfall, completely wiped out the island’s power grid and phone towers. A flash flood emergency was declared in central Puerto Rico, and the island experienced record flooding.
Prior to the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was weak, and the storm left the small island crippled. Across the island, cities reported collapsed bridges and severe damage to roadways. On October 2, almost two weeks after the storm, 55% of people were still without access to drinking water, only 1 of 69 hospitals was fully operational, and 80% of the island’s crops had been destroyed. The full extent of the damage is still unclear, as most telephone and internet lines are still down. The damage has left many rural areas isolated, without access to communication or desperately needed supplies: food, water, shelter, and medical supplies.
- To provide primary health care and essential supplies to unreached, hurricane-affected communities
- To form local partnerships and empower local health professionals, ensuring effective service provision to communities most in need