Meet the Maximizer
Health Director Jeremy Eschliman talks about the historic impact of vaccines, and the link between individual health and public health.
Jeremy Eschliman is Health Director at Two Rivers Public Health Department in South Central Nebraska.
How do you feel COVID-19 has affected the lives of children?
COVID-19 has affected the lives of children in a really profound way. First and foremost, school not being in session was a huge issue. And in Nebraska, we worked really hard to ensure that in-person schooling continued. It really has an impact across our whole school system, our whole society. Very few people that I’ve talked to have not been impacted by COVID-19.
Why do you feel it is important that kids be vaccinated against COVID-19?
It’s important because there’s so much that we don’t know. COVID-19 does appear to be milder in a vast majority of children, but there are some situations when it can be quite severe. There can be long-term effects like MIS-C, which is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. And as with any other vaccine-preventable disease, vaccination is far stronger than natural immunity. Anytime you can get vaccinated, there’s such solid evidence that the risk of vaccination is so much less than getting the disease.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit you personally?
It affects me personally as the father of multiple children in a large family. Being able to stay in school, my kids not getting sick has huge benefits to me personally. I can continue to work without interruptions. Another way it benefits me is that our workload generally is decreased in public health. The fewer kids get sick, the less work there is to do, so we refocus that effort in a lot of other ways.
How else does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit you professionally?
In public health, our role is to promote a healthy population and encourage healthy behaviors. To get to that next level of community health, we need all individuals in that community to be healthy. Unfortunately, if you are sick with COVID – a vaccine-preventable disease – you can’t even think about going outside walking. If your child is sick, you can’t think about, am I going to make a salad or prepare a healthy meal? You’re going to do whatever is easiest, which is usually not the healthiest option. You can’t think about, should we be doing other things to improve our family’s health? Ultimately, individual health is so important because it translates to community health.
How does vaccinating kids benefit the community?
According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s estimated that vaccines have saved more lives over the last 100 years than anything else. Often, we forget that. We talk about the controversy of vaccines, the perceived risk. But having vaccines available is a huge benefit to children and to our population in general. If you go back 100 years, 200 years, so many diseases that are now vaccine-preventable ended in people losing their lives. And now, having multiple safe, effective vaccines, it’s something we should embrace as a community to make sure we are all at our healthiest level.
How would you respond if someone came to you and said, “I’m hesitant about my child getting vaccinated. Why should I do it?”
If somebody came to me today and said that, I’d say, “I’m a parent and I’ve struggled with that question too. I’ve looked at the science. I know the risks and I know the benefits, and I got my own kids vaccinated. And putting on my public health hat for a second, it really is one of the most cost-effective, beneficial things we can do as a group to protect not only our kids, but those that are very vulnerable – some of our older population, and those that can’t be vaccinated for whatever reason. It’s one of the best things you, as a member of society, can do to ensure all of us move forward to healthier community.”