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St. Paul Pioneer Press News Article

A Shot in the Arm
Immunization Action Coalition Wins Prestigious Award
Partners in Public Health Award from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Deborah L. Wexler, MD, shown holding the award, is accompanied by (left to right) Margaret Vaillancourt and Lynn Bahta of the Coalition, and CDC's Hepatitis Branch staff members, Craig Shapiro, MD, medical epidemiologist; Linda Moyer, MSN, nurse epidemiologist; and Harold Margolis, MD, Hepatitis Branch chief.
May 15, 1997
A once-obscure immunization newsletter that won a $750,000 federal grant in 1995 now has won a prestigious Partners in Public Health award from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"I wasn't really that impressed until I found out who the other organizations are that got the award. We're in incredible company," said Margaret Vaillancourt, a co-founder of the St. Paul-based Immunization Action Coalition.

The CDC award - only one of four presented this year - was made "to recognize this coalition of health care professionals and concerned citizens whose efforts were instrumental in achieving high levels of routine infant hepatitis B immunization."
Vaillancourt, Dr. Deborah Wexler, the immunization group's other co-founder, and Lynn Bahta, a public health nurse and the organization's health educator, will accept the award June 4 in Atlanta.
"We'll get a plaque and a handshake" from Dr. David Satcher, the head of the CDC, Wexler said.
Wexler, who was on the staff at the West Side Community Clinic, got the idea for the newsletter in 1990 after a measles outbreak killed three Hmong children in St. Paul.
She has been assisted over the years by Vaillancourt, a former journalist. Their first newsletters, which were sent to about 40 people in the Twin Cities area, were simply minutes of meetings held by the Hepatitis B Coalition.
But the newsletter struck a chord with busy doctors, nurses and other health care providers, who appreciated the short, concise articles and the easy-to-follow charts.
Fueled by its usefulness, the newsletter's circulation gradually climbed to several hundred, then jumped to several thousand and now is at a remarkable 173,000 copies per issue.
"We just keep growing and growing and growing," Wexler said.
Besides the newsletter, the coalition has become a national distributor for immunization videos, and, to handle the increased workload, in June will double its office space in the Liberty State Bank, 1573 Selby Ave.
In recognition of the important service the coalition provides, officials at the CDC increased the group's original grant of $150,000 a year for five years to $175,000 annually and is likely to boost it by another $75, 000 a year, Vaillancourt said.
"They're remarkable," said Mike Christenson, executive director of the Allina Foundation, which is one of the coalition's many sponsors.
"They produce the busiest and best newsletter in the country on immunization - there's not much doubt about that," Christenson said. "This newsletter has created a tremendous, very intelligent grass-roots movement unto itself."
By staff writer Tom Majeski
This page was reviewed on September 10, 2010
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