Jacie Zahler has a vision.
In this vision, her community is healthy, empowered and – of utmost importance –fully vaccinated.
“I believe immunizations are a very important component of community health,” said Zahler, a quality care specialist from Klamath Health Partnership/Open Door. “There is so much to know and understand about vaccines. I’m intrigued to learn as much as I can, and share that information with as many people as possible.”
Zahler, a 35-year-old mother of four, is a champion for immunizations, and the CDC has confirmed just that. She was named the Oregon recipient of a CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award, an annual award presented by both the CDC Foundation and CDC to honor people who improve public health through their work in childhood immunization. Just one CDC Immunization Champion can be named from each of the 50 states, eight U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia, each year. The award recipients were announced during National Infant Immunization Week, April 22-29, 2017.
Zahler believes vaccine hesitancy can be greatly reduced with knowledge, and has found that educating providers about recommendations and schedules helps them to feel more prepared to have those discussions with patients and guardians.
Listening to patients’ and guardians’ concerns is also of paramount importance, and being able to provide the answers to their questions can put them more at ease. She also believes in engaging vaccinating staff, “so that they aren’t just providing the vaccines, but truly understand why they are given, and have that ownership in protecting our patients,” she said.
“I am just a small link in the chain, but if enough links join together to do this work, it can make a huge impact.”
A closer look
You’ve said that time is one of your greatest challenges. Why is that?
I am constantly making “to do” lists with projects that I want to tackle. I want to do more community outreach, mobile vaccine clinics, school vaccine clinics, tons of reminder/recall projects, etc., however, I am only one person, and there is only so much time in the day. I have to focus on the current projects, and give them 100 percent, so they are successful, before I can say yes to another one. I just want to say yes to everything, and do it all, but I obviously cannot do that.
Why do you believe immunizations are such an important cause to champion?
Immunizations can be such a controversial topic. Social media, the internet, the news, technology, can definitely make it worse. So many of us see those “vaccines killed my child,” “vaccines caused this or that” – type articles or testimonies. No, vaccines are not perfect, but we are still not that far away from a time where vaccine-preventable diseases were all over the place. I think it is important for our immunization champions to spread the knowledge that they have, to encourage informed communities that can then make educated decisions about vaccination.
What do you like to do when you are not working? Any travel plans?
I love spending time with my children and husband. We are waiting for warmer weather. We enjoy camping, fishing and hunting. I also recently started working as an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay, so I can earn extra money to go back to school. As if my life is not busy and full enough already. I’m hoping to enroll in OIT for Population Health Management.
Is there anything else you can tell us about your work, or your life in general?
I am just thankful to God for all the blessings in my life. This award wouldn’t even be possible without all the great people I work with. The schedulers who get everyone in. The providers that educate about vaccines. The vaccinating staff that give so many vaccines. The panel managers that scrub the schedules. The administration of Klamath Health Partnership who see my vision, and truly believe in it, and support it. Everyone at Oregon Immunization Program, Erin has helped me learn how to run so many reports, and work in the most efficient way. Rex and Mimi for allowing us to be a delegate of our health department. I have a great team.