Category Archives: Vaccinations

Pertussis: High number of cases cause for concern

Pertussis. It sounds foreign, doesn’t it?

But Pertussis, also known as “whooping cough,” is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can strike infants to the elderly. And there’s currently an epidemic underway in Minnesota.

There were 1,758 Pertussis cases reported in Minnesota as of June 30, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. More than 400 cases have been reported so far in July alone. Nationally, the number of cases could reach its highest level in 50 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota saw nine Pertussis cases just this past week and 41 in the month of July, said Patsy Stinchfield, director of Infectious Disease/Immunology and Infection Prevention. The hospital typically sees 32 cases over the course of a year.

The numbers are concerning.

“Everyone should be on their toes thinking about and testing for Pertussis for people with a cough lasting more than a week,” Stinchfield said.

Pertussis can be a serious illness in infants, children and adults and can be life-threatening, especially for infants. A person with Pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts four to six weeks or longer, even up to 100 days. It can make it hard to breathe or cause vomiting. The “whooping” sound isn’t always present.

It’s unknown what has caused the spike in cases. While Pertussis occurs in all age groups, the average age is 14 and outbreaks have occurred in middle schools, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

“Teens are like a perfect storm of infection,” Stinchfield said.

They may not have gotten their Tdap booster yet, and they tend to continue socializing when they’re sick, spreading their infection to others in their social groups and communities, she explained.

The good news is that Pertussis is preventable. Stinchfield offered the following tips to protect your children and yourself:

  • Children need their primary series of DTaP vaccinations
  • All adolescents and adults need a Tdap booster—one dose for anyone 10 and older
  • Women who are 20 or more weeks pregnant, adults who have significant contact with children and elderly need to make sure they get a Tdap booster
  • Thoroughly wash hands and avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth
  • Those who have Pertussis should not leave home until they have completed their entire antibiotic treatment which is generally five days.  If no antibiotics are taken, Pertussis can spread during the first 21 days of the cough.  Avoiding social contact (stay home from work, school and daycare) until five days of antibiotics are completed is essential
  • It’s called “The 100 day Cough” for a reason—the antibiotics reduce spread to others, but it does not repair damage in the airways which can cause the person to have a harsh cough for many weeks and even a few months
  • Babies too young to be immunized are the ones most likely to die from Pertussis and usually get it from their mom, dad or grandparent.  Vaccinating anyone in contact with a newborn helps prevent needless tragedy

Patsy Stinchfield talks more about Pertussis by video. To watch the series, click here.

For more information or to contact a provider, please visit



Immunizations: Taxis, Times Square and Talking Vaccines

This is a guest post by Justin Theodotou, public relations coordinator at Children’s. He accompanied Patsy Stinchfield, Children’s director of infectious disease, on a trip to New York City to speak with national media outlets about the importance of childhood vaccines.

My first trip to New York City was a short one, with little time to “see the sights.” I was there for another reason: to accompany one of Children’s most passionate providers on her quest to make kids healthier.

My travel partner for 24 hours was Patsy Stinchfield, Children’s director of infectious disease. If you’ve ever met Patsy, you feel her passion for children’s health immediately. She’s bursting at the seams with it. One area for which she carries a healthy amount of zeal is the importance of childhood vaccinations, and the purpose of our trip was to promote that very subject, and bring national attention to the work being done at Children’s.

On our agenda was back-to-back-to-back meetings with a “who’s who” list of national media outlets (The New York Times, CBS Evening News, Real Simple, etc.), booked by Children’s public relations partner, Weber Shandwick. These meetings served as an entre for Patsy as a trusted thought leader and resource on childhood vaccinations.

After arriving late on a Tuesday night, it was a taxi ride to our hotel, followed by a short walk to Rockefeller Center to snap a few photos and meet up with Patsy’s sister. We needed to be up and at ‘em early. We had a full day planned.

Our meetings on Wednesday were all different in flavor, but tended to follow two basic routes when discussing the importance of vaccinations. Sometimes, it was the basics: vaccines are safe, effective and they work. Save for clean water, vaccines have saved more lives on this planet than any other man-made creation.

Sometimes, our conversations took a philosophical turn: should today’s parents be left to sift through the information (much of it false, if you get it from the wrong places) about vaccines and whether or not to fully immunize their children? Or, should we as health care providers do a better job of listening when parents have concerns about vaccines, playing the role of trusted counselor rather than lecturer?

Patsy, ever the great storyteller, also drove home her point with anecdotal evidence. She told the story of a mother who brought her four kids to a travel clinic for vaccinations before a trip to Kenya to visit relatives. Three of the four children received the shots they needed, but when it came time for the youngest, nine-month-old Mahi, to receive his, he’d fallen asleep, and his mother didn’t want to wake him. Later, this mother would refer to this moment as her “fateful decision.” The family traveled to Kenya – an area of the world where measles is rampant – with Mahi unvaccinated.

Unfortunately, Mahi contracted the disease, which subsequently attacked his respiratory system, and spent 25 days in Children’s PICU, hooked up to a ventilator. His mom, who earlier didn’t want to wake him in the travel clinic, prayed fervently that he would wake up and that she would once again be able to hold her baby.

Thankfully, Mahi survived his fight against this often deadly vaccine-preventable disease.

I’d heard Patsy tell this story before, but when she told it during one of our meetings, it nearly brought me to tears.

After a whirlwind day zipping across Manhattan — twice inching our way through Times Square in our car — all we had time for was a quick bite to eat before hailing a taxi back to the airport.

But, this trip got me thinking. Vaccines do the job none of us can do on our own. They work to protect us from germs that are indiscriminant infectors, not caring who you are, where you live or what you had for breakfast. All these germs need is a host, and, like it or not, the human body is a darn near perfect one.

It was during this trip that I realized how thankful I am to be fully vaccinated. My parents made the choice I couldn’t as an infant. They chose to protect my sister and me, the two things most near and dear to their hearts, dispelling the worry and the “what if” had we not been vaccinated. But, they were well-informed (my mother’s a nurse), had access to a pediatrician they knew and trusted, and had health insurance, which paid for those vaccines.

Sadly, not all families are as fortunate, but, there are resources available to help them. Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics provide reliable vaccine information and schedules for parents and providers to follow. Finding a “medical home” is important so the same group of providers is seeing your kids regularly. The Minnesota Vaccines for Children program provides free vaccines for families who don’t have insurance to cover them.

To me, the choice to vaccinate your children is like the choice to buckle them in their car seat. Chances are you won’t get in a car accident, but is the risk really worth it?

For more information and for a list of reliable vaccine resources, visit the Immunizations page on Children’s web site here.

Parents can also download a fact sheet about vaccines here.

Know the Statistics: Children’s Flu Infographic

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness.  In 2010 alone, 122 kids died from complications from the flu—three of those children were from right here in Minnesota.

We at Children’s want to help bring that number to zero by educating the public and by providing families access to flu vaccinations.

Help us spread the word by sharing this infographic.  Getting the flu vaccine will help protect you, your child, and reduce these numbers—it’s never too late to make sure your child is vaccinated.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota have programs and services to support influenza prevention. For more facts about the flu and the programs we offer, visit:

Free flu shots for kids at Kohl’s

Influenza prevention education is an important step to keeping kids healthy during the flu season. That is why the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program awarded Children’s a $441,259 grant in 2009, a $422,000 grant in 2010 and a $483,230 grant in 2011 to create the Kohl’s and Children’s Influenza Prevention Project for Kids. The project offers free vaccination clinics and educational assemblies in schools to teach children about flu prevention.

On Sept. 9 and 10, several Kohl’s locations will offer free flu vaccines for kids. Get full details on times and locations for the clinics.

Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum: A Call to Action for Parents, Providers and Communities

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) and Patricia Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, Children's Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease Services, at the Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum.

This post was co-authored by Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) and Patricia Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, Children’s Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease Services.

Hodan Hassan, parent and vaccination advocate, speaks at the Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum.

Minnesota has long been a leader in childhood vaccination rates. But with success has come complacency.  The recent outbreak of now 23 cases of measles in Minnesota has brought to light the serious consequences of stagnant or declining vaccination rates.

Simply put, now is the time to stand up and voice our support for childhood vaccinations.

Our desire to increase vaccination rates – and decrease vaccine-preventable disease among our children – led to this week’s Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum, which we had the pleasure to co-lead today.

The forum was another great example of how public, private, and community organizations can come together to tackle an issue directly impacting our state. The goal of the forum was to kick-off a statewide call to action to rally parents, providers and communities around the critical importance of vaccination in protecting public health. We wanted to clear up myths and misconceptions about vaccines, while providing ideas on how to improve vaccination rates.

The forum featured a group of both national and local vaccination experts. We were honored to host Dr. Martin G. Myers, emeritus professor of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and director of the National Network for Immunization Information.

The panel at the Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum.

Locally, both Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota Department of Health commissioner, and Dr. Robert Jacobson, chair of the Immunization Task Force of the Minnesota Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, were on hand to provide their insight into vaccination trends in Minnesota.

But the speakers that stole the hearts of the day were the two Minnesota mothers and vaccination advocates – Brendalee Flint and Hodan Hassan – who told their own courageous and emotional stories. Brendalee told the tale of how her young daughter nearly died after a Hib outbreak in 2008, while Hodan discussed the impact that misinformation about vaccines has had on the Somali community. They pleaded with attendees to dismiss the myths and understand the devastating impact that delaying or opting out of vaccines can have on children.

If there was one message that rang loud and clear, it was that we all have a responsibility to ensure every Minnesota child is safe from vaccine-preventable disease.

Let’s make a pledge to link arms in this effort to gain “best in the nation status” on our vaccination rates – whether we are parents, health care providers or lawmakers.  Our state needs to lead by example, and again become a leader in childhood vaccination.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum serves on the House Appropriations and Budget Committees.

Children’s director of infectious disease services earns American Nurses Association Immunity Award

Patsy Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, Children’s director of infectious disease services, earned the American Nurses Association (ANA) Immunity Award. She set precedent as the first nurse ever appointed to a key Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee on preventing national disease outbreaks.

ANA grants the national Immunity Award monthly as part of its Bringing Immunity to Every Community project. ANA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are collaborating on the project, which focuses on maximizing nurses’ role in increasing vaccination rates and reducing incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Stinchfield was appointed in 2004 by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to a four-year term as a voting member on CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The committee, comprised of 15 national experts, provides guidance on the control of vaccine-preventable diseases and has strong influence on the nation’s immunization clinical policy. Stinchfield now serves as the liaison member representative of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners to ACIP.

Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum live chat

We’re hosting the Minnesota Vaccination Awareness Forum today and want to hear your questions! Follow along as we cover they key points of today’s discussion. You can participate by posting a question below. You can log in through Facebook or Twitter, tweet with the hashtag #MNVaccine or enter your name to leave a comment.

New Children’s Hospitals and Clinics Report Highlights Minnesota’s Declining Immunization Rates

By Patricia Stinchfield, RN, MS, CPNP, Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease & Immunology Infection Control

The case of measles detected last week in Minnesota revives strong memories for me of Minnesota’s measles outbreak in the early 1990s. Child health care providers back then will never forget the panic among parents, the babies on ventilators, and the ones who did not survive.

We pay close attention when there is a case of measles because the disease is so highly contagious that even just one case is considered epidemic. While state health officials are still monitoring the confirmed case reported last week, it serves to show that vaccine-preventable diseases continue to be a problem. And that problem may well be due to a worrisome trend we see occurring not just in Minnesota but across the country.

Declining immunization rates.

This trend has the attention of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. As part of our series of reports on the health of Minnesota’s children called “Children’s Check-Ups,” we decided to take an in-depth look at immunization rates among Minnesota’s children, where they were slipping and why. Our report, called “Check-Up 2: Vaccinations and the Challenges Confronting Minnesota Children,” is now released and can be found at

We found that Minnesota’s immunization rate for children ages 19 months to 35 months dropped 3.6 percentage points from 2007 (80.5 percent) to 2009 (76.9 percent). As a result, Minnesota’s rank in immunization dropped to 20th place in 2009 from the seventh in 2007. We saw similar drops in vaccinations against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (DTaP and Tdap), and chickenpox vaccine.

Quite simply, the lower the immunization rate, the more likely the disease will spread. Even a one percentage point drop is cause for concern when you consider that it means that more than 4,200 young Minnesota kids are left unprotected.

Last year, we saw a resurgence of whooping cough in Minnesota, which threatens to recur this year. Our report notes declines in whooping cough vaccination rates among young kids, and a poor showing among adolescents for the booster shot version.

We found two powerful forces contributing to declining immunization rates. The first is disparities in care, often linked to poverty, which limits access to vaccines among certain populations. The second is a growing mix of complacency, misinformation and misunderstanding that keeps parents from protecting their children against vaccine-preventable disease.

I had the opportunity to talk about these issues during Minnesota Public Radio’s Midmorning program on Tues., March 8. You can download the podcast here. We hope our report, by providing a clear, factual and in-depth look at these issues, can serve as a resource to inform parents, government leaders, health care providers and advocates about these issues, and to spark a meaningful and productive discussion of how to better protect our kids. They are counting on us to protect them.

Additional Resources:

  • Patsy Stinchfield, joins Good Enough Moms hosts Marti Erickson and Erin Erickson to discuss why vaccinations are important, how they have prevented the spread of disease in the U.S. and how being immunized also protects the people around us. Listen to the podcast

The winners of the Children’s/Kohl’s Flu Prevention video contest

This video from Bloomington Jefferson High School students won our video contest! The students will be awarded $3,000 for their school.

St. Mary’s School in Owatonna won second-place with its animated LEGO video.

Dassel-Cokato Middle School won third-place with its “Germinator” video.

Read more about the contest and watch all of the entries.