NORTH GEORGIA – The North Georgia Health District was honored with the 2018 Walt Orenstein
Champions for Immunization Award at the Immunize Georgia Conference, recently held for the 25th
year by the Georgia Department of Public Health in Atlanta. The conference is an occasion to give
special recognition to public health immunization champions for their leadership and influence in
getting Georgians immunized.
Immunization is the best protection against vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, polio,
diphtheria and pertussis, just to name a few, and the Walt Orenstein Champions for Immunization
Award honors individuals, agencies or coalitions that demonstrate excellence in providing
The North Georgia Health District (district 1-2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, based in
Dalton and comprised of Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties)
received this award due to the high level of staff commitment to reducing barriers to immunizations
through no- or low-cost vaccinations, community outreach events and flexible clinic hours to meet
the needs of the community.
“We are committed to making it possible for everyone to have access to immunizations with quality
care,” said Ashley Deverell, RN, BSN, district Immunization Coordinator. “From providing over
1200 no-cost flu vaccinations during the peak of the unusually active flu season this past winter to
being a Vaccines For Children provider so we can ensure no one is turned away from receiving
eligible vaccines based on ability to pay, our county health departments and Living Bridge
Center/Ryan White Clinic work in conjunction with public and private partners to administer all
applicable vaccines to as many people as possible.”
Immunizations have been made more accessible in North Georgia through public health in multiple
County health departments stay open until late one day a week so people who work normal business
hours can have access to services, including immunizations.
Health department staff go out into their communities to host vaccine clinics with businesses,
schools, churches and organizations as well as conduct annual back-to-school clinics and drive-thru
flu shot clinics.
They participate in various health fairs to promote immunizations and provide education about many
other health issues and public health services.
The health departments have also developed relationships with fellow county agencies, including
EMS offices and fire departments, to assist in updating vaccinations among personnel.
The Gilmer County Health Department’s International Travel Clinic in Ellijay administers
comprehensive health services to travelers, including vaccines for many diseases that a traveler may
encounter along the way such as polio, measles, typhoid and yellow fever. People all throughout
North Georgia, and beyond, take advantage of these travel clinic services due to the quality of service
and the ability to arrange prompt appointments.
The North Georgia Health District collaborates with local OB/GYN offices to offer low-cost prenatal
care and routinely administers vaccines as part of these services. Plus, the Whitfield County Health
Department offers many primary care services through their Medical Access Clinic, Women’s Clinic
and Children’s Access Clinic to ensure that people who may not have easy access to care can receive
health services, including all recommended vaccinations.
The health district’s commitment to reducing barriers to immunizations also includes a solid public
information campaign that utilizes media and social media along with community partners and
stakeholders inform the public of their need to maintain immunizations and how, when and where
to receive them.
Sherry Gregory, RN, district Infectious Disease Supervisor, said, “Our staff understands the critical
role immunizations play in preventing disease and I am proud of their diligent efforts to make
immunizations more accessible to everyone.”