U.S. Rep. Dent, R-15th, hosts immunization panel at LVHN
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15th, hosted a public community forum on pediatric immunizations at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Cedar Crest Boulevard campus Aug. 9 in recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month.
A panel of medical specialists joined him in championing the necessities of community vaccinations.
Before the discussion, Dent stated his goals for the event.
“We’re here to raise awareness to try and prevent diseases. Another part of why we’re here today is to answer questions they (the community) might have. Most of all, we are here to make sure our citizens are healthy.”
Behind the speakers ,two projected diagrams were displayed listing diseases and the percentage decrease in the United States due to the implementation of vaccines. The diagrams also displayed decreased mortality rates in America after vaccinations. Many diseases were listed such as Hepatitis B, mumps, measles, tetanus, pertussis and polio.
Dent opened the discussion by welcoming the attendees. The specialists took turns introducing themselves. Dent served as a moderator between the panel and approximately 20 audience members for the question-and-answer session.
The medical professionals included: Dr. Tibisay Villalobos-Fry, pediatric infectious disease - LHVN; Dr. Elaine Donoghue, vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics-Education - LVHN; Dr. Loren Robinson, deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health; Sheri Deeb, supervisor of school health services and wellness, Parkland School District and Vicky Kistler, director of health, City of Allentown.
“We are dealing with people not seeking medical care. We want the kids vaccinated so they can go back to school healthy,” Kistler said.
Kistler recommended “herd immunity” which means that all those around children, when vaccinated prevents diseases from spreading person to person. This method includes parents, teachers and caregivers. “People think of only children. We need to protect everyone around us. If not, it can complicate issues.”
The panel agreed a part of keeping children healthy includes vaccinations.
Deeb commented from her perspective as a school nurse. “Children miss less school and parents miss less work when kids are healthy. Vaccines are a win-win for everyone.”
“From June 4 to July 23 of this year, 60 cases of pertussis have been reported, just in the Lehigh Valley Health Network alone,” Villalobos-Fry stated.
She said most have had the pertussis vaccination and put a positive spin on the statistic. “Of the 60 cases vaccinated, none ended up in the hospital. The cases were modified.”
Donoghue, a pediatrician and educator for LVHN, said she is encouraging teens and pregnant moms to get vaccinated before winter. “I myself have had the privilege of seeing five diseases reduced to very small rates in my lifetime due to vaccines.” Her concern is “These diseases could make a roaring comeback,” Donoghue said.
A woman in the audience said her baby was “injured” after a vaccination and experienced developmental issues, she believes, due to the vaccinations the child received. Robinson acknowledged her statement.
“Thank you for sharing. There’s definitely merit in that. There are definitely cases and I think it’s really important to have these conversations.”
In conjunction with fielding another question from an audience member, the pediatrician proceeded to say there are three reasons to be exempted from vaccines in Pennsylvania. They are religious, medical or philosophical reasons.
Kistler followed up by adding, “No vaccine is 100 percent effective. It’s a daunting task being a parent.”
An elderly man sitting in the front row asked what vaccines he may need. Robinson said to ask his doctor about a booster shot of pertussis, the shingles vaccine and a yearly shot for the flu.
Dent shared a personal tie, as an advocate for vaccines. “My grandmother’s sister was deaf. She contracted measles as a child. It would have been much better if she had been vaccinated.”
At the end of the evening, Dent brought a bit of levity to the atmosphere, saying, “I’ve learned a lot today. I’ve learned that women are in charge of the healthcare in their households.” His observation was met with a burst of laughter from the crowd. The congressman thanked the panel, LVHN and the audience for attending.
For more information on vaccines, visit www.vaccines.gov.