The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County’s handling of Tampa Bay’s Hepatitis A outbreak is a testament to how the public health system should work. Public health means health for everyone, not only for those who can’t afford regular access to health care. The best public health system is not about simply administering medication to the poor but spreading public education on health care’s best practices.
This year, the Tampa Bay area has had some of the highest number of Hepatitis A cases in the state, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times’ Justine Griffin. Pasco County had 466 new cases, while Pinellas County saw 369 and Hillsborough County had 145 afflicted. To get in front of this outbreak, the Health Department in Pinellas led the way in sending out “foot teams” to administer vaccinations where at-risk people often lived and spent time. Since May, it has given 789 vaccines — and the numbers show that strategy is working. In March, Pinellas County had 66 recorded cases of Hepatitis A. In October, it had as few as six.
Here’s why Pinellas County’s method works: Residents can’t ignore it. Health officials are coming straight to their door. In some cases, health officials have had to visit a complex three times to convince residents to get the Hepatitis A vaccine. The short-term fear of vaccines and pain is understandable, but the process only requires one to two vaccines that are intended to last for a lifetime. The payoff is worth any preliminary fear.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.