Macon vaccine conference draws 400

Doctors and nurses talked Thursday about launching new attacks on influenza, whooping cough and other old diseases during a Macon conference.

The 19th Annual Immunize Georgia Conference drew about 400 people, who focused on returning threats. Penny Conner, a nurse consultant for Georgia’s immunization program, said the state had 178 whooping cough cases last year, and already 147 this year.

A whooping cough vaccine known as “Tdap” is available for just about anyone, from children to pregnant women to adults. Vaccinations can prevent disease or reduce the seriousness of an infection.

“There’s been 15,000 vaccine-preventable deaths annually” in the country, Conner said.

Conner said Georgia is focusing on school-based clinics, to not only immunize adolescents but also those who work with them. Teachers and bus drivers are getting vaccinated against hepatitis, whooping cough and other diseases, she said.

Conner said she particularly liked a talk by Dr. Walt Orenstein, an Emory University professor who’d worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.. Orenstein spoke about “working locally, thinking globally.”

Most vaccines are available through public health departments and private physicians, Conner said. She said this year’s flu shot, with a different formulation, may already be available.

“Everybody over the age of six months should be getting their flu shot,” she said.

The annual event was held at the Macon Marriott City Center.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.