Vaccination efforts continue in Rush County

This article first appeared in the Rushville Republican on March 12, 2019. 

For the past several years, Greg Pratt, Director of Pharmacy, Whitney Owens, Director of Walk In Care, Ashley Snapp, nurse and Manager of Clinical Services, have been at the forefront of an immunization initiative at Rush Memorial Hospital. Their goal has been to curtail the spread of preventable contagious diseases in Rush County. With the support of the RMH clinical staff, Greg, Whitney and Ashley have met with great success in their immunization efforts.

Last year, Greg received the Immunization Advocate Award from the Indiana Immunization Coalition. In 2017, Rush Memorial Hospital received the Callie Van Tornhout Infant Immunization Award. This award is named for Callie Van Tornhout, a premature infant who died after contracting a case of whooping cough while in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She contracted the disease from a nurse who did not know that she had whooping cough.

The vaccine that has proven to be the greatest challenge at RMH, as well as throughout the country, has been the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV is a group of sexually transmitted viruses that usually go away by themselves. Some infections last longer, however. When this occurs, HPV can cause several types of cancer. The viruses are responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 95% of anal cancer. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that HPV causes about 33,700 cases of cancer annually. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, the vaccination rate for HPV is only 59.3% (+ or – 6.4 %) of teens aged 13 to 17 in Indiana. By contrast, the vaccination rate for the same population is 95.1% (+ or – 2.3%) for the dtap vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus and polio).

In order to educate the public and promote vaccinations, Greg, Whitney and Ashley decided to take their initiative directly to the community. With support from RCHS Principal Robert Hadley, on Feb. 13, they put on an event at Rush Consolidated High School’s Laughlin Center. The event was entitled Protect the Ones You Love from HPV.

This event was the result of a collaboration between RCHS students and healthcare providers from RMH. RCHS media students filmed multiple interviews with students and providers. These interviews were put together to create a film that was shown at the event. The film focused on the importance of vaccination as well as the impact of various types of cancers that can be caused by HPV. Clips of cancer sufferers from other communities were also incorporated into the film.

After the showing of the film, a panel of experts answered questions from the audience. Included on the panel were two RMH physicians, Dr. Donald Snyder, gynecologist, and Dr. Jaime Ayon, oncologist. The remaining panelists included Lisa Robertson, Director of the Indiana Immunization Coalition, and Brenda Forbes, of the Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation.

Brenda Forbes is the mother of Kristen Forbes, a young woman who died in 2008 at the age of 23, only a year after being diagnosed with cervical cancer that was caused by HPV. Brenda and her husband Kirk created the Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation in order to educate the public about HPV, its ties to cervical cancer, the availability of tests for HPV and the importance of the HPV vaccine. The Kristen Forbes story was included in the film shown at the HPV event.

Before and after the HPV event, RMH employees carried out fundraising efforts to benefit the Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation. On Wed, Feb. 27, the event committee presented a check for $735.75 to this foundation. The Rush Memorial Hospital Foundation was proud to partner with Rush Memorial Hospital staff for this gift.