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First lady touts vaccinations during hospital visit
Stop at Northside-Forsyth part of statewide tour
Georgia first lady Sandra Deal, left, greets Kristen Garcia and her infant daughter Monday afternoon at Northside Hospital-Forsyth. Deal was visiting the hospital in Cumming as part of a statewide tour to encourage parents to have their newborns vaccinated. - photo by Micah Green

CUMMING — Georgia’s first lady visited the Women’s Center at Northside Hospital-Forsyth on Monday afternoon to encourage parents to have their newborns vaccinated.

The stop was one of several at hospitals across the state to promote vaccinations, a cause Sandra Deal said is near and dear to her heart.

“We have chosen this week in this month to promote immunizations because it’s just before going back to school [in early August],” she said. “… We want to start with them when they’re little because we’re learning that the whooping cough is coming back and people are being exposed to it.”

Deal also referred to an outbreak of measles among college-age adults a few years ago.

“We’re just having a lot of the old diseases that we once had to crop up again,” she said. “So our purpose is to just try to get the word out that people need to get their children immunized and they need to keep records so these children don’t have to take [a vaccine] twice.”

Northside-Forsyth is among the hospitals that distribute an immunization card from Sandra and Gov. Nathan Deal to each family as they leave the center. The card helps parents keep track of their children’s vaccines.

“We’ve sent packets to lot of the hospitals, but we don’t want them to put them in a closet and not give them to people,” the first lady said of the cards. “We want [hospital staff] to give them to people … this hospital is doing a good job with that.”

The card, with a message of congratulations from the Deals, features a tear-off checklist page with all of the needed immunizations. There’s space for parents to note when and where each vaccine was received.

“That can be folded up and put in their wallets to take with them when they go to the doctor,” said Sandra Deal, adding the card can be especially useful if a family moves or switches doctors.

Besides touting the importance of child vaccinations to employees and a new mom, she also toured the Women’s Center and brought along a bag of stuffed animals and books to help entertain the siblings of new arrivals.

Melissa Sugg, director of the Women’s Center, said the visit was an honor, particularly since center employees share Deal’s passion for encouraging immunizations.

“It’s very special because she’s one of the leaders of our state so we’re very proud to have her here to show off our facility and to show her that we support her program,” Sugg said.

Lynn Jackson, administrator of the hospital, called the stop “a privilege.”

“We’ve participated in [the Deals’] immunization card program for a while, but to have her actually come and present one herself is phenomenal,” Jackson said.