Immunizations Update – MIC
Nicole Cope, MPH, Executive Director, Missouri Immunization Coalition, Inc.
The State of Missouri now has an Immunization Coalition! Before 2019, Missouri did not have an organized immunization coalition. Following the Spring legislative sessions of 2018 and 2019, immunization advocates and supporters recognized the need to organize and provide a unified voice in support of life-saving vaccines and the public health and primary care systems that provides them. The Missouri Academy of Family Physicians and the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics were involved in the establishment of this group.
The Missouri Immunization Coalition (MIC) membership met in summer 2019 to establish our mission to promote immunizations, prevent disease, and protect Missouri. Specifically, MIC’s purpose is to improve the health of Missourians by reducing the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases across the lifespan through immunization education, advocacy, promotion, and statewide collaborative partnerships. Our Bylaws and Board of Directors were installed in late summer 2019 with Timothy Fete, MD, Professor Emeritus, General Pediatrics, and Pediatric Hospital Medicine, as our first Board President.
In 2020, we began a new era for MIC. The American Academy of Family Physicians provided a small grant to help with the startup costs for the MIC. Through generous funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health, we hired Nicole Cope, MPH, as our Executive Director and established a Board of Directors. Your executive director, Kathy Pabst, and past president, Kate Lichtenberg, DO, both serve in officer positions on the board.
This year we also began our advocacy efforts in earnest by launching several campaigns supporting HPV vaccination, infant immunizations, catch-up campaigns, and of course the COVID-19 vaccination. These campaigns were funded through a contract with the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services.
The 2021 legislative sessions proved to be one of our very challenging as well. Bills that would have tremendously weakened our childhood vaccination efforts through greatly loosening mandatory school vaccination policies gained traction in the state legislature, but ultimately through the advocacy efforts of MIC and our many partners, these bills were defeated. We know we have a lot of work to do in preparation for our next legislative session, especially in advocating for the critical benefits of childhood vaccinations among our legislators.
In late June, we launched our first state immunization conference. With over 250 in virtual attendance, we hosted several noteworthy speakers from both the state and national levels. The conference has been a huge success in providing important immunization updates and guidance, especially in responding to vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19 and providing networking opportunities for our members and colleagues.
We recently secured funding from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for more wide-scale efforts to work with Federally Qualified Health Centers and rural hospitals to help enable them to raise immunization rates. We are excited for this opportunity to improve Missouri’s vaccination rates and expand our staff at the MIC. We will also continue with our many advocacy efforts and campaigns. We realize that none of this is possible without our many members and partners and all of you on the front line of the vaccination efforts. This has indeed been an incredibly trying year in promoting COVID-19 and other vaccines. Never has the public been more engaged in conversations about vaccine safety and efficacy! We are here, first and foremost, to support our physicians and healthcare providers. Please consider joining the Missouri Immunization Coalition! You can check us out at moimmunize.org.