AVAC Spotlight:
Andrea Polkinghorn, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, SD

Andrea Polkinghorn believes that you’re never too old to get vaccinated. Children, adolescents, and adults all need vaccinations to keep our communities healthy. As we age, childhood vaccinations begin to wear off, leaving adults susceptible to serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. She knows that it’s imperative that when it comes to vaccines, no patient gets left behind.

That’s why Andrea serves as the enterprise immunization strategy leader at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Sanford Health is one of the largest health care systems in the nation with 44 hospitals and nearly 1,400 physicians in nine states and nine countries.” Sanford is dedicated to improving lives through exceptional care, innovation and discovery. Before she was Enterprise Immunization Strategy Leader, Andrea was Sanford’s Clinical Services Manager and a Registered Nurse Health Coach. Today, Andrea is accountable to organization wide immunization standardization efforts across the Sanford Health footprint.

Andrea and other health care providers at Sanford understand how important immunizations are.

Every day at Sanford Health clinics, people of all ages receive immunizations that protect them against deadly and dangerous infections such as influenza, hepatitis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, HPV, pertussis, and meningococcal.

Sanford’s initiative to create a Vax Champ program takes a major step toward improving vaccination rates for people of all ages. Vax Champ re-educates nurses in all Sanford clinics that administer vaccines, subsequently developing a content expert, or “champion” within each clinic that will serve as an educational resource and provide standardization across the organization.

Transforming individuals who are passionate about protecting the health of patients through vaccinations into “champions” is essential to increasing immunization rates amongst all populations. Vax’s six-month training program includes information about each specific vaccine, vaccine administration, storage and handling of vaccines, and ways to create a plan to mobilize your organization to improve adult immunization rates.

Champions are encouraged to attend local, state and national immunization meetings, as well as join immunization boards, committees and task forces. Some champion programs have incorporated immunizations section in the electronic health record (EHR) called Health Maintenance which enables providers to identify the vaccines that each patient is due for.

Sanford’s strategic Vax Champ program has helped to improve vaccination rates, solidifying Sanford as a national leader within the immunization realm.

AVAC thanks Andrea and Sanford Health for their dedication to increasing immunization rates in all our communities!