Ms. Kimberly Nelson, a master’s student in the health services policy and management department at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with a CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award. This honor recognizes individuals from across the country who demonstrate exemplary efforts to promote childhood immunizations in their communities (see South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control press release).
Ms. Nelson became interested in vaccination advocacy after the flu spread throughout the day care of her 6-week-old infant, who was not yet old enough to receive the vaccine. When a child in the crib next to Ms. Nelson’s daughter was hospitalized for a week due to flu complications, she decided to take action.
After looking for a group of local, like-minded individuals and failing to find one, Ms. Nelson founded South Carolina Parents for Vaccines and began researching vaccine exemptions and the reasons why parents decide to not vaccinate their children. She found that these decisions were often based on inaccurate information during or prior to pregnancy. Once the child was born, parents were reluctant to change their minds.
To help expecting parents receive accurate information about immunizations, Ms. Nelson organized a parent-led workshop (which was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered) and partnered with a former president of the South Carolina chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to host an online Q&A on vaccines. She also contacted elected officials to discuss how policy changes related to vaccine-preventable diseases could help protect children in South Carolina.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on June 28