Virginia vaccination project named national 'immunization champion'
With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the Extension Foundation, Virginia Cooperative Extension collaborated with experts from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Population Health Sciences and Virginia State University to get more shots in arms.
Virginia Cooperative Extension was recognized by the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit, which named the organization an “Immunization Neighborhood” Immunization Champion. The summit, which addresses and resolves adult and influenza immunization issues, is made up of over 700 partners across the United States. Extension was chosen from 25 nominations for the national award.
"The ultimate goal of this work is to get more people vaccinated,” said Kathy Hosig, who spearheaded the project. “CDC worked with Cooperative Extension across the country through Extension Foundation because we have presence in all the communities and we know the communities.”
Hosig is an associate professor, the director of the Center for Public Health Practice and Research at the veterinary college, and a public health Extension specialist.
As the front door to the land-grant mission at Virginia Tech, Extension is how research is put into action and shared with the commonwealth's communities.
"We have Extension agents who work with family and consumer sciences, working with families, financial management, and healthy living,” Hosig said. “These are the agents we are working with through this project."
Through Extension, Hosig has worked on public health problems such as diabetes management, prevention of obesity, and substance misuse and addiction.
The hands-on immunization project focused on areas in the state with the lowest vaccination rates, getting the word out about COVID vaccination through Extension agents and faculty. Outreach has ranged from vaccine clinics to education booths to opportunities for residents.
The ultimate goal is to increase adult vaccination as a whole. Several vaccines, such as the shingles vaccine, are given exclusively to adults, and adults need boosters for some vaccines they received as children.
In addition to Hosig, the Extension team includes:
- Sophie Wenzel, an assistant professor of practice in the Department of Population Health Sciences and associate director of the Center for Public Health Practice and Research
- Kristina Jiles, a research assistant professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and public health Extension specialist
- Amanda Hensley, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Population Health Sciences
- Domenique Villani, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Population Health Sciences
- Natalie Martin, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Population Health Sciences
- Karen Munden, a family and consumer sciences Extension agent and state program leader for health for Extension
- Brad Jarvis, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent for Extension
- Tiffany Freer, health specialist for Extension at Virginia State University
- Jordan Everett, health extension associate for Extension at Virginia State University
While accepting the award at the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit, Hosig participated in a panel discussion explaining Extension’s work.
"Winning this award has been able to add value to the relationships with our state department of health and with our funder, CDC. It's going to be great for Extension as well — all of this work over the past three years has given us visibility on a national scale,” said Hosig.
Virginia Cooperative Extension recently received two more years of funding. Wenzel will lead that project, and the team that spans Extension, the veterinary college, and Virginia State University will apply what they’ve learned and increase their efforts to increase adult vaccination and improve the health of Virginia’s local communities.