VaccineLink impacts 1,000

| COPH Home Page Feed, Monday Letter, Our People, Students

In the midst of controversy and consternation regarding the recent measles outbreak, a USF Health team is creating positive change in the community, one innovative educational session at a time.

VaccineLink/La Salud Conexión is a bilingual collaboration between the USF Morsani College of Medicine and the College of Public Health that works to identify current barriers to immunization among underserved adults in Hillsborough and Polk counties in Florida. The goal is to synergize the talents of USF public health and medical students, lay health advisors and community leaders to forge sustainable links between pharmacy and health care providers to reduce vaccine preventable illnesses and deaths in the community.


Under the leadership of principal investigators Jamie Morano, MD, MPH, Dawood Sultan, PhD, and co-PI Meghan Borysova, PhD, VaccineLink has utilized a nearly $500,000 grant to pilot, test and launch innovative electronic tablet consent and survey tools including an originally designed, pre-loaded tablet Spanish-English bilingual voice-over video instruction on the topics of vaccination safety and efficacy.  Pre- and post-intervention, de-identified surveys are electronically uploaded, stored, scanned when applicable, and entered into electronic databases for statistical analysis.

Thanks to the dedication of vaccine lay health navigators Viviana Delgado Méndez, BA, and Coni Williams, MS, who visit community sites often on weekends and participate in community vaccination health roundtables and outreach events with the Florida Department of Health, approximately 1,000 unique clients in four months have received individualized education regarding the safety and necessity of vaccinations, including the option to learn more about gaining insurance coverage and primary care providers of their own. Grant coordinator April Schenck, MBA, has been a key community liaison for large community and academic events and successfully transitions field data into Excel spread sheets to map current and future community interventions.

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VaccineLink has developed the “5A’s of Vaccination Success”: awareness (vaccine preventable diseases are serious); additives (there are no mercury derivatives in commonly used single-dose vaccines); autism myth (vaccines do not cause autism); assist (vaccines assist others through herd immunity); and accessibility (federal and state policies enable vaccines to be free or low cost).

The program focuses on closing the gaps in adult vaccination in Hillsborough and Polk counties by focusing on the five major adult vaccinations: influenza, tetanus/pertussis/diphtheria (Tdap), meningococcal, human papilloma virus, and varicella zoster virus (shingles). VaccineLink has been recognized by the Moffitt Cancer Center and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office as a partner in a regional cancer prevention vaccine coalition.

Input from Community and Scientific Advisory Boards (CAB/SAB’s) has strengthened the team approach and streamlined strategies to maximize intervention in the field. Dr. Meghan Borysova’s connections in the community including with Veronica Estrella, MS, of Moffitt Cancer Center, helped bring diverse and multicultural expertise to the table.

VaccineLink/La Salud Conexión has also served as a successful conduit to further the academic prowess of USF COPH students, including Arturo Rebollón Guardado, MD, MPH, who has been a prolific contributor during his time between classroom and dissertation work – his voice and translation expertise are featured on the Spanish voice-over videos and consent materials. He is working on utilizing aggregate VaccineLink data to create GIS maps of vaccination utilization and uptake to redirect and streamline public health interventions in the community.

Dr. Dawood Sultan and Dr. Ogie Umasabor-Bubu represented the team in presenting two abstracts, entitled “Creating an Infrastructure to Enhance Vaccine Health Knowledge and Uptake in Hispanic, African American and Economically Disadvantaged Communities in Two Florida Counties” and “Latinos and Vaccine Health” at the 2014 Eastern Regional Meeting of the National Association of African American Studies in Tampa. USF COM student Jessica Alvarez, MS, USF COPH affiliated Deanna Ryder, BA, and Abigail Wold, BS, have recently prepared and submitted an abstract on the VaccineLink organizational structure to USF Research Day. USF alumna Mimi Ghosh and USF undergraduates Marlene Cantu and Thao Nguyen also have been valuable volunteer contributors to the outreach project.

VaccineLink/La Salud Conexión continues to be a successful model of USF COM-COPH cross-collaboration and success – one that greatly enhances the learning of our students and benefits the health of our community.

Commentary and photos by Jamie P. Morano, MD, MPH.