Visiting the Masters of Vax Data

By Dale Dauten, Syndicated Columnist

“The road is life
Jack Kerouac

ROAD TRIP! There’s something about that little phrase that quickens the pulse. The writer Elizabeth Berg said a road trip not only “uncrinkled” her mind but offered it “a cure for a disease it had not known it had.” Everyone who works in an office knows what that disease is—it’s the mental groove of workflow, of knowing what to do and doing it… again and again… In a word, routine.

Maybe that’s why STC’s CEO, Mike Popovich, told me recently, “Part of my job is to get people out of the office, to get them away from their cell phones, out from behind computer screens, out from the conference calls, and talk to people, face to face. You share ideas, you tell stories, and everyone is better off.”

To that end, Mike encouraged two STC veterans, Judy Merritt and Shannon Coleman, each with nearly two decades of experience, to head out on a road trip. They grabbed ahold of the idea and started with visits to clients in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. (More states to follow in the next leg of the road trip.)

Judy and Shannon’s First Stop Selfie

Here’s a summary of what they found, Four Lessons from On the Road with Judy & Shannon


  1. SAY “YES” TO THE JOY OF ROAD TRIPPING. There is something different about the mindset when you shift from “client visits” to a “road trip.” Usually we meet with clients to address specific issues, or introduce a new service, but this was neither. This was about watching and listening and having our brains in full learning mode. No agenda but learning. And we felt that the clients appreciated our being there and they were justifiably proud of what they are doing with the data.
  1. SHARING REGISTRY SUCCESS/INVESTMENT WITH OTHER DEPARTMENTS. One intriguing idea we encountered was a registry team sharing their systems knowledge with other departments/agencies within the state. Specifically, the team in Louisiana has been talking with their counterparts who handle the WIC program. That program’s records are where registry data was a few years back—that is, the data (in this case, the application to accept WIC) is being submitted via paper. The same knowledge that went into digitizing registry data could be readily adapted to WIC. Mike Popovich was particularly pleased to hear this idea, saying, “This is a chance to leverage an investment a state has already made. Most government projects are for a single purpose, but that doesn’t mean the components of a project couldn’t be used elsewhere. Doing so would save money and time while mightily increasing the likelihood of success.”

  1. THE NEW CONVERSATION: HOW TO BETTER USE THE DATA. As two people who’ve been doing this a long time, we were struck by how much the conversation has changed. Ten or fifteen years ago most of the people working on the registry were involved in data entry and the conversation was around getting the registry populated. Now, the conversation is around bi-directional use, and around new uses for the data. For instance, we got to see how they are using the registry in Tennessee to help respond to an outbreak of Hepatitis A. They are using mapping of vaccinations to help target their response efforts. That’s exemplifies the shift in registries, from simple reporting to aiding in disease prevention. Our colleagues working in the registries have emerged as the masters of vax data.
  2. THE PRIDE OF PURPOSE. Along with the new emphasis on not just collecting data but employing it, we found a deepening job satisfaction among our colleagues at state registries. There is pride of purpose, knowing that they are playing an important role in the health of their citizens. As Nathalie Hartert put it, “To me, as a mom, our work is very relevant. You’re working to keep kids healthy and you’re a small piece of the big picture.”

And we’ll end our road trip conversation with this, from Catherine Haralson of Tennessee, “Being in the middle of the epidemic, it really brings home what this program is all about. What we’re doing is important. If all immunizations were a requirement maybe we wouldn’t be having an outbreak right now.”


It sounds like a movie sequel, but even better: Shannon and Judy will be headed back out in September, hoping to visit at least three more states. We’ll be back with a report then.

Meanwhile, here is their photo album from the first leg. (All the folks pictured gave their approval to be included.)

 8x2.5_BumperSticker (2)


In time for the start of school, we’re bringing back our bumper stickers:

“Proud Parent of Fully-Vaccinated Kids”
If you’d like one — they’re free — 
contact STC’s Bianca Garcia:


The Nation’s Future “Green Fields” of Immunization

By Bill Davenhall

New mothers are the future of childhood immunization programs — we might call them the “green fields” for helping keep infectious diseases in check. So what’s new with new mothers?

They are getting older — the average age of a new mother in the United States has surpassed 28 years of age. A decade ago it was only 25 years of age. In fact, according to the CDC and the Census Bureau, over the last 45 years the average age of the new mother has increased almost 5 full years. That’s a trend worth considering when thinking up new ideas on how to get more children immunized.

New mothers in 2023 will also be better educated, with the majority having some college experience.

Like the classic TV commercial, “It’s not your fathers’ Oldsmobile,” the data is calling out for a rethinking of how to reach and educate new mothers about immunizing their children. The map below depicts the immunization “green fields” of new mothers in the years ahead. Time to plant some seeds!

Females 25-34 2023 County (1)

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