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.

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