Immunizations – the single most effective way to prevent diseases
“I can’t wait for a vaccine!” Who thought that we would spend 2020 with that phrase echoing through our community?
Ironically, as we hope for a COVID-19 vaccine, immunization rates for our existing vaccines plummet. It makes sense. People are staying home. Healthcare workers and PPE are in short supply. Public health resources are stretched thin with the necessity of contact tracing.
Historically, vaccines have been an incredible public health success. Two to three million deaths are prevented each year. Smallpox is gone. Polio has been pushed back to only three countries. In the 2019-20 season the flu vaccine prevented 4.4 million US cases of the flu. 58,000 hospitalizations and 3500 deaths were avoided. It is no wonder we are eager for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite successes, decreasing vaccination rates have led to an increase in disease outbreaks. Measles is the most recent example with two outbreaks in Washington state last year. Flu and some pneumonias can be prevented by vaccinations, but experts worry about a surge of both this winter.
Immunizations are the single most effective way to prevent diseases that can have lifelong impacts on children, families, and communities. State and national goals recommend a 90% immunity rate to prevent outbreaks. While most Jefferson County families immunize, we are far from that goal.
Now is a great time to catch up on immunizations.
Both Jefferson Healthcare and Jefferson County Public Health offer appointments for immunizations. Jefferson Healthcare patients can update their vaccines with a quick nurse visit or at any clinic visit. Now appointments for a “drive-up” immunization option are available at the Jefferson Healthcare Sheridan Clinic.
So, while we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, now is the perfect time to keep ourselves healthy. Eat a half plate of fruits and vegetables at every meal. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week. Mask up. And call your clinic for an appointment for immunizations.
Dr. Molly Parker, MD
“DC Schools Took a Wise Step to Prevent Something Worse than Corona Virus.” Washington Post. August 4, 2020 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/08/04/dc-schools-took-wise-step-help-prevent-something-worse-than-coronavirus/?emci=ca94693a-76d6-ea11-9b05-00155d03bda0&emdi=eddd0bce-76d6-ea11-9b05-00155d03bda0&ceid=8844087
“Vaccines: A global health success story that keeps us on our toes.” Bustreo et al. WHO. April 25, 2016. https://www.who.int/mediacentre/commentaries/vaccines/en/
“Outbreaks of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases.” July 1, 2020. https://www.vaccinateyourfamily.org/national-immunization-awareness-month/outbreaks-of-vaccine-preventable-diseases/
“Our Progress Against Polio.” CDC. November 3, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/polio/progress/index.htm
Decline in Child Vaccination Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic — Michigan Care Improvement Registry, May 2016–May 2020.” C Bramer et al. MMWR Weekly / May 22, 2020 / 69(20);630–631
On May 18, 2020, this report was posted online as an MMWR Early Release. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920e1.htm
“Health Beat: Remember Kids’ Immunizations in this COVID-19 Era.” R. Wood. The Daily Chronicle. August 5, 2020. http://www.chronline.com/opinion/health-beat-remember-kids-immunizations-in-this-covid-19-era/article_1176f286-d76d-11ea-99d5-a356e274a3eb.html
In February 2020, the Jefferson Healthcare Emergency Management Team began meeting weekly to strategize the need for a possible response to the pandemic in China. On March 3, full Hospital Incident Command Protocol was established in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in King and Snohomish counties. Incident command protocols provide hospitals of all sizes a foundation for emergency preparedness and response, both as an organization and as a member of the broader community.
Incident Command expanded the work of the Emergency Management Team to strategize, organize, and prepare the hospital. To stay ahead of the ever-changing situation, the team met twice a day throughout the first months of the pandemic.
As the cases across the state increased, and the Governor implemented “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, Jefferson Healthcare canceled or postponed elective surgeries and non-urgent clinic visits. Resources were redirected to focus on a potential COVID-19 surge and to preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line employees. Jefferson Healthcare began to transform into a facility focused almost exclusively on essential care of likely COVID-19 patients.
Primary Clinic staff established a dedicated phone line staffed by nurses and an off-site clinic to screen for COVID-19 positive patients, to reduce the amount of PPE used during testing, and to minimize potential exposure to others. Just one week later, the Drive-Thru COVID-19 Testing Station went up, which allowed patients to stay in their car to be tested and minimize exposure to others and PPE used.
By late March, a detailed surge plan had been created for the hospital to outline necessary clinical staff, equipment, and bed placement.
Jefferson Healthcare is a small critical access hospital, so the Facilities and Maintenance team needed to create more room for a potential surge as well as build additional environments to make patient areas even safer. The team turned standard hospital rooms into negative pressure rooms to minimize the disease’s spread. Anti-rooms on the hospital floor were built for staff to remove contaminated PPE safely. Protective shields were made for registration staff.
For the safety of staff and patients, visitation to the hospital was halted, including the Café. Some employees were redeployed to entrance screening stations. All patients and employees entering the hospital or clinic receive a temperature check, are surveyed for COVID like symptoms, and masked. Dated stickers verify everyone entering is properly screened. Jefferson Healthcare adopted CDC and Washington Public health guidelines and protocols as guides for testing, staff training, and facility safety.
“Thank you for your support. We are committed to our community, and we will continue to serve and protect you. In exchange, you can do one more thing for us: stay safe, wear a mask when you are unable to maintain 6 feet, and frequently wash your hands.“
In late April, telemedicine service was established, and providers quickly became experts in virtual visits with their patients. Telemedicine allows patients to have safe and convenient access to their provider without delaying care, such as continued pain management and behavioral health. The temporary visitation limited visitor access to patients in the hospital, so the Information Technology team worked to ensure patients have access to family members via video chat on hospital iPads.
Support from our community continues to be overwhelming. Cloth masks were made and delivered for our employees from local groups, churches, and individuals. Masks from workshops, carpenters, and shipbuilders were donated. A local sail-maker created a partnership with the hospital to sew hospital-grade reusable procedure gowns, which protect our care teams. Our school district ensured that essential workers had access to childcare.
The community offered moral support, as well. You showed up to cheer on our employees in May during Hospital Week, and we continue to receive cards and notes thanking staff for their commitment to the work.
Thank you for your support. We are committed to our community, and we will continue to serve and protect you. In exchange, you can do one more thing for us: stay safe, wear a mask when you are unable to maintain 6 feet, and frequently wash your hands.