Calling all Champions!

The instinct to protect tiny, vulnerable infants is one of the most powerful drives a person can experience.  New parents have been known to go to extraordinary lengths to protect their children from all kinds of harm.  That protection can take many forms—for example, car seats and safer cribs—but one of the most basic ways that parents can protect their infants is through immunization.

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States. This year, NIIW is scheduled to be held April 21-28.

Young children rely on the champions in their lives to keep them safe and healthy.  Those champions may be parents who keep a record of their child’s vaccinations and ask at each doctor appointment whether their child is up-to-date on immunizations. And, those champions may also be doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other healthcare professionals who share scientifically-accurate, up-to-date information about vaccines with parents. This year, during NIIW, communities across the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia celebrate the CDC Childhood Immunization Champions. These recipients of a new annual award are being recognized for the important contributions they have made to public health through their work in childhood immunization.

TIP President and CEO, Anna C. Dragsbaek, was recently named a Childhood Immunization Champion for Texas.  Her passion for protecting

children from vaccine-preventable diseases evolved from her work in West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer, where she witnessed countless children suffering from diseases that were all but eliminated in developed countries, yet were prevalent in her village.

Polio, measles and rotavirus claimed the lives of countless infants under the age of five,” said Anna.  “No parent should have to bury a child for something that is completely preventable.  That experience inspires the work I do every day.”

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. Even when diseases are rare in the U.S., they can be brought into the country, putting unvaccinated children at risk. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases was the California whooping cough epidemic of 2010, resulting in the death of 10 infants. Nationally, more than 21,000 cases of the whooping cough were reported in 2010.   Only a concentrated community effort can stop vaccine-preventable diseases like pertussis.  Protect an infant—become a champion for childhood immunization.  Share with your family and friends why you think immunization are vital to our children’s well-being.

Do you want to call out an immunization champion in your life?  Leave a message here and tell us about the amazing things your champion does to support immunization.

World Meningitis Day: From Tragedy Springs a Legacy of Hope

The word ‘meningitis’ can strike fear in the hearts of parents, and for good reason.  This week, TIP is observing World Meningitis Day, to draw attention to this devastating disease.

Bacterial Meningitis is the swelling of the membranes, called meninges, which surround the brain and spinal cord. It’s symptoms of headaches, stiff neck and fever can appear quickly or over several days after exposure, with serious and sometimes fatal results. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental state. Spread through the respiratory tract, those living in close quarters are most susceptible to meningitis. The disease can quickly spread through college dorms, army bases and boarding schools.

The good news is that most forms of bacterial meningitis are vaccine-preventable, but many families are unaware of the need to protect against this disease through immunization.  Unfortunately, several Texas families have learned the hard way that the disease can cause devastation in the blink of an eye.

On February 11, 2011, Greg William’s life changed forever. That’s the day his 20-year-old son Nicolis, a junior at Texas A&M, died of complications from bacterial meningitis 72 hours after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms at a campus clinic.

Losing our son was without a doubt the worst experience of our lives,” said Greg. “And, to discover later that his death could have been prevented intensifies the pain and guilt we hold in our hearts.”

Due, in part, to Greg’s efforts, Texas colleges now take an active role against the disease. The Jamie Schanbaum Act, named for a University of Texas student who lost her legs and fingers to the disease, was amended in 2011 and became the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act. The law, which went into effect in 2012, requires that all students under the age of 30 who enroll in any Texas college show evidence that they have received the meningitis vaccine within the 5 years prior to enrollment. The law was a labor of love for both families and TIP was honored to assist.

“With TIP’s considerable help, we’re very proud to have been able to modify the law,” said Greg. “This is a huge and significant accomplishment for future generations of college students in Texas.”

Greg takes comfort in the fact that through the law, other families may be spared the pain of losing a loved one to meningitis.

Because the law is named in association with Nicolis Williams, our son has a legacy and the grief in our hearts is lightened,” said Greg.  “We thank God for blessing us with Nicolis and we thank TIP for keeping his memory alive. Because of your efforts, no other college student in Texas will die or be disfigured from meningitis.”

To learn more about the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act please visit our website.

Join us on April 24 as we observe World Meningitis Day. We invite you to visit our Facebook page and post comments from your experience with meningitis and why you chose to get your family vaccinated.

Thank You for a Successful Community Immunity Spring Luncheon!

Thank you for making our third annual Community Immunity Spring Luncheon a huge success! TIP supporters packed the ballroom at the Junior League of Houston last Thursday making this the largest luncheon yet and raising more than $150,000.

We couldn’t have done it without the help of our supporters and volunteers who went the extra mile to ensure the success of our event. Special thanks go to Kim and Scott David for chairing this year’s luncheon and for helping us exceed our fundraising goal.

Judge Ed and Gwen Emmett present the John R. Boettiger Day of Community Partnership proclamation to Michelle Boettiger.

This year came with a few changes as the Community Partnership Award was formally renamed the John R. Boettiger, Jr. Award for Community Partnership. In a proclamation from Harris County, read by Judge Ed Emmett, April 12th was also officially named the John R. Boettiger Day of Community Partnership. Both were in honor of the late John R. Boettiger, Jr., who served as a TIP board member and an outstanding volunteer.

Another invaluable TIP supporter, Houston Community College’s Coleman College for Health Sciences, received the first ever John R. Boettiger, Jr. Award for Community Partnership for their dedication in supplying bright and energetic students for our Immunization Champions program.

Celene Meyer of SLEHC presents TIP President and CEO Anna Dragsbaek with a grant to go towards TIP's Immunization Champions program.

Our Immunization Champions program received further support through a generous $50,000 grant from St.Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities, presented at Thursday’s luncheon.  We would like to thank SLEHC for their long-time support of the Immunization Champions program and we look forward to many more years of outstanding partnership.

The Ralph D. Feigin, M.D. Award for Excellence, presented by Susan Feigin Harris, went to Dr. Peter J. Hotez, President of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, an organization that works in partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital for Vaccine Development and the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Peter J. Hotez presents on the "neglected" tropical vaccine-preventable diseases found in underprivileged parts of the world.

Dr. Hotez’s presentation gave us valuable insight into vaccine-preventable diseases that ravage the world’s poorest populations and the work that is being done to stop them.

We are truly grateful for the outpouring of support we received at the luncheon. To date, ninety people have answered the call from our board President, Dr. Lindy McGee and have become members of our Big Shot society. You can still make a gift and support TIP by visiting our website.

We had a wonderful time and hope to see everyone in September for our Fall Fête, an exclusive event with Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear.

There are a number of ways to get involved with TIP. Please visit our website for more information and we’ll see you at next year’s luncheon!

A Closer Look at Immunization Champions

Houston’s immunization rates are the highest level in years, thanks to the combined efforts of doctors, nurses and projects like Immunization Champions, a flagship program of The Immunization Partnership.

TIP's Maureen Moore gives an Immunization Champions orientation at Hope Clinic.

Since 2008, this program has helped many clinics raise their childhood, adolescent and adult immunization rates through an innovative, evidence-based recall system, providing outreach to individuals who are overdue for important vaccines.  The project often has a dramatic effect on a clinic’s immunization rates, raising them by 50 percentage points or more.  Thousands of people are now better protected against dangerous diseases, making our community a healthier place to work and live.

Student interns are a special part of the Immunization Champions program. Houston Community College’s Coleman College for Health Sciences provides their best and brightest students, who are then placed in clinics and mentored by The Immunization Partnership staff, which includes advanced immunization training.  The students learn how to implement the recall system and a permanent clinic staff member is cross-trained to ensure that the project continues after the conclusion of the internship.   Along the way, clinics and students learn more about immunization best practices through an ongoing relationship with The Immunization Partnership.

The program is called Immunization Champions because of the passion and dedication that is fostered in both the student interns and the clinic staff.    In addition to improving immunization rates in the short-term, the project encourages long-term systemic change which ensures that future generations of children will be protected against vaccine-preventable-diseases for many years to come.

Patricia Branham, an HCC graduate in Health Information Technology, was an enthusiastic participant in the Immunization Champions project and reflected on why she felt it was so important.

“I felt that it was my responsibility to be as educated as I could about immunizations and to do my best to get all of the children at my clinic up to date on their vaccinations,” said Patricia. “I developed special relationships with the children and taught the parents how important it was that they were all vaccinated.”

Supported generously by St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities and other local foundations, the project is now in its fourth year and has a bright future.   With the changing landscape of health care reform and an increasing focus on prevention, the Immunization Champions program is poised to make an enormous impact by helping clinics improve their immunization rates for children, adolescents and adults.

TIP salutes Coleman College, St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities, the Immunization Champions clinics and all the student interns who have joined forces to protect our community from vaccine-preventable diseases.   Join us on April 12th as we honor Coleman College for its contributions to this important project at our Community Immunity Luncheon.

Do you know of a clinic that would be a good candidate for the Immunization Champions Project?  Please visit our website to learn more and to apply!