232: North Carolina’s Child Vaccine Strategy

Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, North Carolina’s State Health Director, discusses vaccine uptake among children and why she believes North Carolina has been able to have one of the highest rates in the southeast; Julia Greenspan, ASTHO’s Director of...


Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, North Carolina’s State Health Director, discusses vaccine uptake among children and why she believes North Carolina has been able to have one of the highest rates in the southeast; Julia Greenspan, ASTHO’s Director of Infectious Disease Infrastructure and Policy, details why she is concerned about ever-increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections across the U.S.; Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott, the former Rhode Island Health Director, has joined ASTHO as a Senior Executive Consultant; and ASTHO celebrates the final month of summer 2022 with a reading list of fiction and non-fiction titles.

ASTHO Webpage: STD Roadmap: What you need to know about your STD program

ASTHO Blog Post: STDs Rising Nationally, CDC Says

ASTHO Webpage: Innovative STD Prevention and Treatment Strategies

ASTHO News Release: Former Rhode Island Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Joins ASTHO as Senior Executive Consultant

ASTHO Blog Post: 2022 ASTHO Summer Reading List

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Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

ELIZABETH CUERVO TILSON:

In our state, we have about 3% of our children's six months to four years who have had at least one dose. That does set us above the national average and actually has us where the highest percentage in our southeast region.

JOHNSON:

That's North Carolina state health director, Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, talking about COVID-19 vaccine uptake among children ages six months to five years. She says the rate is one of the highest in the southeast.

TILSON:

One of the reasons I think of the relative success of North Carolina is that we've worked very, very closely with our primary care providers, our pediatricians, our family medicine physicians. And, in fact, more than 50% of our vaccines are being delivered in those primary care homes.

JOHNSON:

Tilson emphasized the role of family physicians in getting vaccine numbers up among young children.

TILSON:

What we really learned from our people and our parents is that they wanted to get vaccines for their littlest ones in that trusted medical home, with their trusted medical providers. So, what we are hearing is people are waiting for their regular appointments and will be getting that vaccine along with the regular vaccines. That's one piece.

Second, as we went through our big Omicron surge, a lot of our children got infected in the Omicron surge. So, the other thing we're hearing from parents is they may wanna wait a little bit since they've had that recent infection and then get vaccinated later.

JOHNSON:

She adds other factors have helped grow the numbers, including but not limited to raising awareness among North Carolina's parents.

TILSON:

I think the awareness piece is important, but not sufficient. And so, the other pieces that we're ensuring in our thought of success of our vaccinations—yes, awareness, too—that parents have a source of trusted information. So, they have accurate information that they can then read and make that informed decision for themselves.

And then, third is ensuring that there is wide availability of access and then especially access in those trusted medical homes.

 

JULIA GREENSPAN:

So, the number of new STIs in the country are alarmingly high.

JOHNSON:

ASTHO's Julia Greenspan concerned about ever increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections across the U.S.

GREENSPAN:

Unfortunately, congenital syphilis rates have exploded in recent years. The CDC has actually already released some preliminary data for 2021, and the trends that we've seen in recent years are continuing in 2021.

And the story of congenital syphilis is really devastating because it can cause stillbirths and newborn deaths, permanent health complications. But, it's also 100% preventable.

JOHNSON:

Greenspan says limited resources can hinder the response, adding ASTHO is working to provide tools and information to its members.

GREENSPAN:

We have a whole suite of products that feature work that jurisdictions have done around preventing, identifying and treating STIs. We are also right now hosting a community of practice that is focused on congenital syphilis. And later this year, we're going to be sharing some of the best practices that come out of the community.

JOHNSON:

ASTHO offers an e-learning module that outlines innovative STD prevention and treatment strategies. You can find it using the link in the show notes.

 

Also this morning, former Rhode island health director Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott has joined the ASTHO team. She's now a senior executive consultant. Alexander-Scott will work with ASTHO members, helping them on health equity, resilience, and leadership development projects. You can read the ASTHO news release using the link in the show notes.

 

Finally today, it's August, but summer isn't over just yet. ASTHO celebrates the final month of summer 2022 with a reading list. There's a collection of fiction books curated to help you escape your work and a selection of non-fiction titles for those who can't get enough public health information. Check it out using the link in the show notes.

 

That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Julia Greenspan MPH CHES

Senior Analyst, Infectious Diseases, ASTHO

Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson MD MPH

State Health Director, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services