July 2, 2019

Carol Wolfenbarger: Not a Shot in the Dark: Why Keeping Up with Vaccines Is Critical to Public Health

By Carol Wolfenbarger
Chief Executive Officer, Mission Hospital McDowell

Carol Wolfenbarger

Before we start school again next month – yes, it’s July already – I want to remind parents that this month is the perfect time to review your child’s immunizations status, see what might be missing and take care of getting any required vaccinations well before the busy time that precedes the first day of school. Your child is probably scheduled for a prekindergarten physical already. It’s at this appointment that you should review with your provider your child’s vaccination history, and if necessary get caught up on any vaccinations that may be needed.

The topic of immunizations has been in the news lately, as the US has experienced a resurgence in measles, a serious disease that was all but eradicated in our country until a few years ago. If you’re old enough to remember people who had polio or perhaps had the chickenpox yourself as a kid, then you know that these dreaded diseases pose far more dangers to babies and children than do vaccines. Time and again, evidence, backed by many studies, has declared vaccines safe. Social media and other news sources are rife with conflicting information, unfortunately. Understandably, parents worry about if and when they should vaccinate their children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), children entering public school should be up-to-date with the following vaccines:

  • Hepatitis A and B
  • DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis)
  • Hib (haemophilus influenza type B)
  • PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, protects against a series of bacterial infections)
  • Polio vaccine
  • Influenza vaccine (Annually)
  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
  • Varicella vaccine (chickenpox)

Some of these vaccinations are a series of shots that started in infancy, such as the DTaP vaccine, while the flu shot should be given annually.

The recent outbreak of measles in the US, primarily in New York and California, has been alarming from a public health standpoint. Having your child up to date on their vaccinations not only protects them, it protects the community, including infants who are too young to have received any vaccines yet and medically fragile children and adults.

Immunization recommendations do not stop with our prekindergarteners. Additional immunization recommendations for teenagers include HPV, TDAP booster and, according to risk, meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccinations may be recommended. Likewise, adults should also stay informed regarding recommended vaccinations, as well as needed booster schedules for illnesses they were immunized against decades ago.

For adults older than 65, the pneumonia vaccine is critical, as is the new two-part shingles vaccine that’s recommended for people 50 and older. Shingles is a painful, long-lasting condition that can strike anywhere on – or in – an individual’s body. Anyone who has had the chickenpox is at risk for getting shingles. The vaccination for shingles is more than 90 percent effective in prevention.

Vaccinations have changed the spread of disease – just look at the incidence of polio. Ensuring that we are immune to diseases that used to kill thousands per year is an important way to take responsibility for the health of our community. For more information on the importance of vaccines, how they actually strengthen the immune system and specific answers for parents, the CDC website is an excellent resource, as well as your primary care physician or pediatrician.

Our providers here at Mission Hospital McDowell are always happy to discuss vaccines with you as part of a comprehensive strategy for your family’s wellness. Vaccines are a powerful first defense in preventing illness.


Mission Hospital McDowell

Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors, and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.