Guest Column: Prevention is the name of the vaccine game

By Julie Drake

RBC Director of Public Health

RBC  | I helped my brother brand calves a few weeks ago.  No, it’s not what you think.  There were no cowboy hats, no chinks, no horses, no fires, no pot luck dinners or malted beverages and no extra cars in the driveway.  It was just a few of the family, a four-wheeler, a calf chute, electric branding iron, vaccines and a general desire to get the job done quickly.  Most of the calves were dehorned and castrated a few days after birth (docile Herefords allow this), so it was mostly branding and vaccinating. Having the right equipment and the right knowledge (Beef Quality Assurance guidance) helped us give those baby calves a good start in life.    

Branding is an exciting event for some operations. People are invited to help, wonderful meals are prepared and camaraderie abounds.  These ranchers are pretty smart. Free labor, entertainment and at the end of the day a needed job is done.  Those who attend often get dressed up in cowboy attire and have a chance to reconnect with their rural heritage.    Good laughs, great meals, and hard work make for a meaningful day.

County public health still struggles getting people excited about vaccinations.  Maybe we need to make it more fun, a celebrated event, with great incentives.  Could we improve the vaccination rates in our county in the same way some of the ranchers do for springtime branding?  Could we make it so much fun the whole neighborhood would want to come and help?   

The go-to nurse in our office on vaccinations, Ashley, is passionate about the importance of childhood and adult vaccines.  She has the right equipment, the right knowledge and makes it as quick and fun as possible.  Still there are people in our county that are behind or are going without the recommended vaccinations.  HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination is often overlooked for teens and flu and shingles are missed on many adults.  No big parties planned, but we are completely rethinking our immunization services at Rio Blanco County Public Health.  Stay tuned as we ramp up our vaccine services later this summer, just in time for school.  We are striving to improve services countywide, make it easier for families to stay protected, put the “public” back in public health and improve overall health.  Far too long have public health services across the state been targeted only to certain populations, while others have gone unprotected.  This past flu season was horrible. Colorado had an unprecedented number of hospitalizations due to flu. In fact, the worst ever. We hope with more comprehensive immunization services we can continue to keep our county residents safe! Prevention is us.