Healthy You Healthy Hennepin

Babytracks past student team with Marie Maslowski

Increasing access to immunizations

June 2024

For many years Hennepin County Public Health has been dedicated to helping residents receive and stay up to date on immunizations. Recently, the Hennepin County Baby Tracks and Immunization Quality Improvement for Providers team has taken this work a step further and are meeting families in the community to provide important immunizations for children

Immunizations are safe, effective and help keep people healthy. The community-based immunization clinics are helping get immunizations to children who need them.




Breaking down barriers to immunizations

Since COVID-19 began four years ago, immunization rates for children have declined. This is particularly true for the measles, mumps and rubella immunization. In 2019, for example, around 92% of kindergartners and seventh grade students in Minnesota were fully immunized. However, in 2024 that percentage fell to around 87% for fully immunized kindergartners and 84% for fully immunized seventh graders, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. One of the key reasons is some families struggle to access health care appointments.

To address this need, the Baby Tracks team is partnering with Odam Medical Group and holding free, community-based immunization clinics through the summer and fall. These are taking place in Hennepin County libraries and are open to the public to ensure that everyone has access to immunizations.

These clinics help break down barriers in accessing immunizations. They are free and no appointments are needed. The goal is to help families who may struggle to make and get appointments during the week because of cost, paid time off constraints, and other factors, Hennepin County Public Health staff say. The immunization clinics are promoted in multiple languages to make sure everyone knows about them, and they are staffed with people who speak those languages as well. They also provide a space for families to talk to medical professionals and ask questions.

“We want community members to be able to talk to us about their health concerns and we will counsel them on what can be done,” says Dr. Robert Odam of Odam Medical. “We can refer them to resources including our clinical services.” This gives families more time than a typical 10-minute appointment where they may not be able to get all their questions answered. 

Child with bandage on arm
Young child with bandage on arm




Immunizations are safe, effective and help keep people healthy

Marie Maslowski, RN, PHN, MPH, Baby Tracks/Immunization Quality Improvement for Providers Supervisor, shares that she has been aware of the great advancements that immunizations have made since she was young. Her mother had been a nurse during the polio outbreak in the United States in the 1950’s.

“When my mom was nursing, parents were extremely scared of polio. I remember seeing a photo of her in her uniform standing next to a patient in an iron lung,” Maslowski said. The U.S. polio outbreak caused lots of pain and suffering, and even death. Once the vaccine was introduced and communities became immunized, polio became a disease most people no longer worry about in the U.S. Inspired by how far we have come with immunizations and disease prevention, Maslowski and her team work to make sure everyone has access to these immunizations that keep us all safe.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it presented for people staying up to date on vaccinations, the team also has begun offering education at the immunization clinics. Ayan Osman from the Baby Tracks team and Sara Hildreth, a master of public health student on the team, tell families that “immunizations are the most cost-effective and successful public health intervention for preventing disease. It is a community effort to keep everyone healthy. Immunizations protect not only the individual who receives the immunization, but their family, and community members.”

Dr. Odam also works to inform patients about the safety and effectiveness of immunizations at both his practice and at these community-based immunization clinics.

“I tell patients that there are some serious diseases that cannot be treated with antibiotics, antiviral or other medication,” he says. “The treatment we have is to teach the body's immune system how to fight and stop the disease when it gets into your body. That treatment that gets your body ready to fight the disease in the shot called the vaccine.”

It can be helpful to understand how this is a communal effort. Dr. Odam explains that “because the disease spreads from one person to the other, if you get the vaccine, you protect your family members and members of your immediate community at the mall, church and mosque.” This is sometimes talked about as “community immunity,” where being immunized helps make the community safer for everyone. This type of shared responsibility helps protect everyone from disease outbreaks that can take us all away from learning, working, playing and being together.

family at the immunization clinic




Future clinics

The team kicked off these clinics during a National Infant Immunization Week event in late April. For the first event, they also brought in additional vendors who provided opportunities to get childhood resources and education to support children’s health as well as immunizations. Over 60 people came, and 48 immunizations were administered in total. More clinics are being held until October 2024 in Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis, and the team anticipates more after that as well.

These are a great place to go for families who have struggled making appointments for immunizations. To check what vaccinations you or your child may already have, visit the Minnesota Department of Health immunization record guide. Staff at the community-based immunization clinics are also able to help find immunization records for participants. Find more information with dates and times for the community-based immunization clinics at For anyone not able to make it to these clinics and looking for immunizations, find where to get free and low-cost immunizations at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Ayan at the Babytracks table

Share this story