Buncombe County ranks lowest for immunizations in NC

Dr. Jennifer Mullendore is currently the medical director for Buncombe County Health and Human Services and a member of the Western Carolina Medical Society.

by Jennifer Mullendor, medical director of Buncombe County Health and Human Services

Buncombe County usually ranks high in the state for healthy behaviors and quality medical care. Unfortunately, there is one area where we are dead last: immunizations. The percent of Buncombe County kindergarteners who have not received all their required immunizations is about five times higher than the North Carolina average. Most of these children’s parents claimed a non-medical reason for not vaccinating their children. Our goal at Buncombe County Health and Human Services is to assure that parents and our community understand the benefits of immunizations.

Outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases happen when people are not immunized. These diseases result in illness, disability and death, missed school and work, loss of income and increased health care costs.

Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough can have on a family. But talk to anyone who grew up prior to the late 1960s, and they’ll tell you of those who suffered and died as a result of these illnesses. It’s easy to think of these diseases as things of the past, but they are making a comeback in communities with low immunization rates. In 2010, there were 68 cases of whooping cough reported in Buncombe County. In 2013, N.C. had an outbreak of 23 cases of measles. As of mid-July 2014, there have been 580 cases of measles and 911 cases of mumps in the U.S. These are diseases that had practically disappeared from the U.S. over the past several decades — thanks to immunizations.

We know that most people choose to immunize, building a shield of protection around themselves and our community. Unfortunately, it only takes a few who are not immunized to create cracks in the shield. The health of our community depends on very high rates of immunized people. Keeping our community shield strong is especially important for those who either cannot be immunized or are most vulnerable including infants, the elderly and those with weak immune systems or other medical conditions.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services is working to increase awareness of what immunizations mean to the health of all in our community. Our goal is to provide opportunities for everyone to learn more about the benefits of immunizations.  As a family doctor and public health official, I urge parents to study the facts, ask questions and have conversations with trusted medical providers.  Consider what it would be like if your child was exposed to a disease like pertussis or measles, both of which can be deadly.

It’s also important to remember that immunizations don’t end in childhood.  There are immunizations for all stages of life including pregnancy, young adulthood and older age. Please talk with your healthcare provider about immunizations. You can also visit our website at buncombecounty.org/vaccine for more information.

What we do matters.  Shield our community from serious vaccine-preventable illnesses and deaths. Get immunized. Protect yourself, those you love, those who cannot be vaccinated and our entire community by getting recommended immunizations.

Dr. Jennifer Mullendore received her medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine and graduated from the Moses Cone Family Medicine Residency Program in Greensboro, N.C.  After receiving her Master’s of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, she began working at the Buncombe County Health Center. She is currently the medical director for Buncombe County Health and Human Services and a member of the Western Carolina Medical Society.




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5 thoughts on “Buncombe County ranks lowest for immunizations in NC

  1. Jake

    This is a sad distinction for our county. C’mon, folks, get beyond the myths and get your families immunized. It is the safe, responsible thing to do.

  2. ~m s~

    I find Dr. Jennifer Mullendore’s statement that “outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases happen when people are not immunized” disturbingly inaccurate and instead continues that propagation of sensationalist media on the subject, despite many claims by respected professionals to the contrary. It is NOT because of non-vaccinated individuals that we see re-emergence of diseases.

    Gregory Poland, an MD at the Mayo Clinic, and part of their Vaccine Research Group, wrote in his paper “The Re-Emergence of Measles in Developed Countries: Time to Develop the Next-Generation Measles Vaccines?” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905323: “Receiving less attention, however, is the issue of vaccine failure. While the current vaccine is acknowledged as a good vaccine, we and others have demonstrated that the immune response to measles vaccine varies substantially in actual field use. Multiple studies demonstrate that 2–10% of those immunized with two doses of measles vaccine fail to develop protective antibody levels, and that immunity can wane over time and result in infection (so-called secondary vaccine failure) when the individual is exposed to measles.”

    The idea of “herd immunity” is also junk science, despite what Dr Mullendore is suggesting above with her statement, “We know that most people choose to immunize, building a shield of protection around themselves and our community. Unfortunately, it only takes a few who are not immunized to create cracks in the shield.” In the Financial Post on June 14th 2014, Lawrence Solomon wrote in his article “Junk Science Week: Vaccinating the ‘herd’” (http://business.financialpost.com/2014/06/19/junk-science-week-vaccinating-the-herd/): “According to Tetyana Obukhanych of Stanford University’s School of Medicine, the measles vaccine works as planned with only 25% of the population, leaving the majority of adults who have been vaccinated as children with little or no protection. Up to half of today’s cases involve adults.” Dr. Obukhanych’s writes at length (with loads of scientific references) on the subject of the fictional idea of herd immunity in her article “Herd Immunity: Can Mass Vaccination Achieve It?” (https://sites.google.com/site/vaccineillusion/herd-immunity#_edn13).
    I could go on disproving several other statements in the above article. But instead, I’ll express my wish that Dr Jennifer Mullendore’ – who is both educated and in a position of some influence as the medical director of Buncombe County Health and Human Services – would take the time to educate herself before writing the same false information presented by TIME magazine (http://time.com/27308/4-diseases-making-a-comeback-thanks-to-anti-vaxxers/), among others. It just makes her entire argument for vaccinations fall flat because what she says is so easily disproved with a little bit of research.

    • LengthyP

      You didn’t disprove a thing. You took small snippets from the aforementioned articles/studies to suit your purposes. It might be best for you to take your liberal arts degree and demand your money back. You might be able to then get a degree in the hard sciences and have a modicum of proficiency in reading and comprehending scholarly medical literature.

      • ~ms~

        Actually I am a medical student, and I’ve done extensive research in the areas of nutrition and autoimmune diseases. Not that I should need to list my credentials, so you’ll find something more intelligent to say. If you are pro-vaccination, I’d like to hear your response, even if you are just a liberal arts graduate… or not college educated at all. Let’s hear what you have to say on the subject of vaccination. And, go! Thanks.

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