Jeff Gordon, spokesman for the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, thanks Debra Davidson, chief operating officer of Access Family Care for their tireless efforts to aid residents of Joplin, Mo. Access Family Care used Tdap vaccine donated in Gordon's name by Sanofi Pasteur to help protect storm victims against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Access Family Care staff took life-saving tetanus-containing vaccines door-to-door during the Memorial Day weekend to immunize hundreds of local adults. Pictured left to right Heather Keitges (Sanofi Pasteur), Debra Davidson (Access Family Care), Jeff Gordon. Photo credit: Action Sports Photography/Ashley Dickerson.
Four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon has pledged his support of the Alabama tornado relief effort through the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation, which is sending diapers, toiletries, shoes and clothing for babies and children affected by the destruction. Sanofi Pasteur announced today that it is making a donation of 5,500 doses of tetanus-containing vaccine, including 500 doses of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine in Gordon's name to Direct Relief International to aid victims of the recent storms in the Southeast and Midwest.
Gordon has a personal interest in helping the storm victims as tornados in Alabama destroyed the homes of his engine tuner's mother and sister. For more than a decade, Gordon has been involved with programs aimed at improving the lives of sick children. He and his wife Ingrid Vandebosch are currently the national spokespeople for the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign, a joint initiative of Sanofi Pasteur and March of Dimes. The goal of the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign is to educate parents, family members and infant caregivers about pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough), and the importance of getting a Tdap booster vaccination.
"The devastation throughout these regions is astounding," said Gordon. "I'm pleased that the baby products my Foundation is sending to St. Claire County, AL, and the much-needed Tdap vaccine Sanofi Pasteur is donating to Direct Relief International will assist those who have been affected."
Tetanus, which is also known as lockjaw, is a serious health risk following a disaster because unsanitary conditions raise the risk for people who are wounded or assisting with the cleanup efforts and are not up-to-date with their vaccinations. Tetanus bacteria, which are found in soil, can enter the body through cuts, scratches and wounds. It causes painful muscle spasms all over the body. It can lead to tightening of the jaw muscles, so the victim cannot open his mouth or swallow. Tetanus kills about 20 percent of people who are infected, but the disease is vaccine-preventable.
A tetanus booster vaccine is recommended for adults every 10 years. Two forms of tetanus vaccine are predominantly used in the U.S. -- Tdap, which provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and Td, which provides tetanus and diphtheria protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a single dose of Tdap vaccine for adults and adolescents.
"It's a popular misperception that diseases like pertussis are a thing of the past," says Thomas Tighe, president and CEO of Direct Relief International. "The fact is, in recent years it has made a strong and unwelcome comeback across the country. So, vaccinating with Tdap for tetanus protection has an added benefit protection against the rising threat of pertussis. We are grateful to Jeff Gordon and to Sanofi Pasteur for their assistance, and for allowing us to continue to serve the affected communities as we heal and rebuild during this difficult time."
Access Family Care in Joplin, Mo. is one of the organizations that received some of the vaccine donated by Sanofi Pasteur to Direct Relief International. "In the aftermath of the tornado, we recognized the immediate need to respond to the high potential of tetanus due to injuries sustained during the search and rescue, and clean up operations occurring throughout the city. Thousands of volunteers have poured into the community particularly during the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, increasing our need for tetanus-containing vaccine beyond that which would have been required for residents," says Debra Davidson, PhD, chief operating officer for Access Family Care. "Our staff used their childrens' wagons to load coolers filled with cold packs and vaccines, and other medical supplies, going up and down the streets administering Tdap and Td vaccines, and distributing water and personal hygiene supplies last weekend. We also coordinated our efforts with Joplin and Jasper County health departments and other medical facilities, and set up stationary sites at busy intersections throughout the city providing the immunizations to search and rescue teams, clean-up volunteers, and the community at large. As a result, more than 12,000 people in the Joplin area have received immunizations with tetanus-containing vaccines so far."