The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation have recognized Gina Deris asGina Deris one of this year's CDC Childhood Immunization Champions. The award honors immunization advocates who have made immunization successes possible in their communities. Each year, one CDC Immunization Champion from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia receives the prestigious award.

Deris is the former State Coordinator of the Louisiana Shots for Tots program. She was nominated and selected from a large pool of health care professionals, coalition members, parents and other immunization leaders as having made a significant contribution to public health in Louisiana through her work in childhood immunization.

"I want to commend Gina for her steadfast leadership in championing the importance of vaccinations to protect our state's most precious asset, our children," said Kathy Kliebert, Interim Secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. "Gina's passion for this cause is a major reason why Louisiana's childhood vaccinations rates rank in the top third of our country."

Deris has been instrumental in the development of the Louisiana Shots for Tots State Coalition, as well as helping to improve the immunization rate for children less than 2 years of age to over 70 percent across Louisiana. She was able to bring together representatives from various pharmaceutical companies, healthcare workers, private providers and parents working toward the common goal of improving immunization rates across the state.

"Immunization plays a key role in protecting the health of America's children," said Dr. Melinda Wharton, Acting Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "Ensuring that all children are immunized requires a cadre of dedicated health professionals and community leaders nationwide. The Champion awards give us the opportunity to salute these individuals for their service to our children."

"Immunization is a top priority for me, so I am honored to receive this award," said Deris. "We have made great strides as a community in creating awareness across the state with the coalition, but there is still work to be done."

A CDC Childhood Immunization Champion is an individual who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Has provided community leadership on immunization issues and collaborated with others to build support for and increase immunization rates of infants and young children
  • Has used creative and/or innovative strategies to promote infant and young child immunization and meet unique immunization challenges within their community, state or region, including, for example, reaching hard-to-reach or under-immunized populations
  • Has been a visible immunization champion in a community and/or medical system by acting as a spokesperson, advocate, and/or educator

CDC Childhood Immunization Champions were selected from a pool of health care professionals, coalition members, parents, and other immunization leaders who are doing an exemplary job or going above and beyond to promote or foster childhood immunizations in their communities.