DSHS Wins National Award for Program to Increase Vaccination Rates for Emergency Responders

News Release
Sept. 26, 2019

Texas was recognized this week for its successful effort to increase immunizations among emergency responders. The Texas Department of State Health Services received a 2019 Vision Award from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials at its annual meeting in Bethesda, Md. The program was judged on its innovation, effectiveness and replicability.

"We want the people who protect the public to be protected from disease before disaster strikes," said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS Commissioner. "I am proud of the leadership DSHS has shown in immunizing emergency responders. I hope organizations in Texas and other states can use this program to educate and protect their emergency responders from vaccine preventable diseases they may be exposed to during a disaster."

The response to Hurricane Harvey in 2017 confirmed the results of an earlier study that many responders don't think about the need for vaccines until after they're deployed and working in a disaster area. Receiving vaccines at that point does not provide immediate protection, and the delay puts them at risk of acquiring infections like tetanus and hepatitis B.

The program provides tools for local health departments to work with the emergency responder organizations within their communities to designate an immunization coordinator and provide training, educational materials and resources for accessing immunization services. Emergency response organizations may include fire departments, police departments, EMS service providers, the Texas State Guard, volunteer organizations and church organizations.

Find more information about immunizations for first responders and the First Responder Immunization Toolkit.