St. Agnes students learn importance of immunization

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Laura Harbago and Chester the Horse read a Berenstain Bears book to Lisa Gerber's Pre-K class at St. Agnes School after winning the Chester County Health Department's Immunization Coloring Contest on April 20. (Candice Monhollan)

Laura Harbago and Chester the Horse read a Berenstain Bears book to Lisa Gerber’s Pre-K class at St. Agnes School after winning the Chester County Health Department’s Immunization Coloring Contest on April 20. (Candice Monhollan)

WEST CHESTER — The morning was full of story telling and books for Lisa Gerber’s Pre-K class at St. Agnes.

Her students happened to be the lucky class to win the Chester County Health Department’s Immunization Coloring Contest.

It’s all part of the CDC’s National Infant Immunization Week , which runs from April 18 through 25.

“We try to do promotion activities during this week to heighten awareness about the importance of immunization and vaccinating against preventable diseases,” said Laura Harbago. “Our focus is Head Starts and preschools because this is the most vulnerable population. When they’re not vaccinated, they’re the highest risk of serious complications from communicable diseases, so we want to try and promote education about immunization.”

… [Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]

As part of the education, the county health department had children in the early-learning programs color pictures about immunization. All participating classes were entered into a random drawing.

Those classes that were picked in the drawing received a visit from Chester the Horse and a representative of the health department.

“The Chester County Immunization Coalition brought the mascot,” Harbago said. “Kids love mascots. If you can interact with them with the mascot, then you can have more access to them.”

On Monday morning, Michele Steiner, the immunization program coordinator at the county health department, dressed as Chester the Horse and passed out free Berenstain Bears books to Gerber’s class while Harbago read the book to them.

“That book focuses especially on shots and why they’re important in protecting their health,” Harbago said. “They can take that book home and it has Chester’s picture in the front. Hopefully they’ll talk to mom and dad about it and next time they go to the doctor and have a shot, maybe they’ll remember that it’s not as scary as they think or mom and dad thinks it’s going to be for them. Sometimes when they’re braver, mom and dad are, too.”

As of late, the anti-vaccination movement has taken a major foothold in the United States, leaving children exposed to pertussis and measles, just to name a few.

“We’ve had 171 pediatric flu deaths this year alone (in the country),” Harbago said. “That’s five full kindergarten classrooms of children that have died. We have our work cut out for us.”

Harbago and Steiner know it’s an uphill battle to convince the anti-vaxxers of the importance of vaccines for their children.

In Chester County, they’re trying to make the change starting with the younger generation.

“The kids are the future,” Harbago said. “When they aren’t afraid, sometimes their parents aren’t as scared for them. It’s tough right now. There’s a lot of anti-vaccine sentiment in the United States. When you get to an adult that’s made up their mind, it’s kind of difficult to change their mind, even with the medicine and science.”

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Categories: Education, Health

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