Monday, November 21, 2011

The Importance of Immunization

VISTA Member Jennifer Gosnell

My name is Jennifer Gosnell and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Yavapai County VISTA Project.  My site is First Things First, which is a statewide organization that partners with parents, families and communities to make sure that all children, ages birth to age five years, are healthy and ready to succeed when they enter school. I received Bachelors of Science in Community Health Services from Ohio University in June 2011. With my background in public health, First Things First’s mission aligns with my goals that I acquired through my education.

In Yavapai County, the immunization rate is extremely low due to two primary reasons. One of them is that parents are afraid of autism because the media has publicized people’s opinion of the link between autism and vaccines instead of the research that proves there is no link. The second most common reason is because parents in the United States do not see the diseases that vaccines protect against anymore. These diseases still exist and without vaccines, there are and will be outbreaks and epidemics. Most parents that have not been exposed to someone with pertussis or measles do not think it is possible. Without the majority of people in certain communities vaccinating, the herd immunity that once existed, does not anymore. This means that if one person acquires a certain disease, many people will contract it because the majority of people are not vaccinated.

First Things First has many strategies that help dictate the needs and assets of the community they are serving. Under the strategy Parent Awareness, the Yavapai Region of First Things First has funds to promote a media piece to help raise awareness on immunization. I have conducted research since August to discover why parents were choosing not to immunize in Yavapai County, the rates of immunization, the education already being performed about immunization awareness and what type of media piece would reach the demographic of Yavapai County the best.

Immunization awareness is exceptionally important because people are not trusting healthcare providers and the outcome will be very deadly. The diseases that vaccines protect against can be serious or fatal. Infants have not developed a proper immune system and need their parents and child care providers to be immunized. They also need to be immunized as soon as they are old enough to help protect them. People need to trust the health care system and research instead of gossip from celebrities about how vaccines are unsafe.

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