COLUMBIA, Mo. -- As a public health nurse for the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department, Malaika Gallimore helped staff an immunization clinic where parents brought their children to get vaccinated against a wide variety of diseases. She noticed some parents felt confident about their children receiving most vaccines, but were reluctant about specific immunizations, such as hepatitis B or human papillomavirus infection (HPV), often due to something they had read online or heard from a family member or friend.
Now a doctoral student at the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, Gallimore earned a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help provide factual, public health information to Missouri parents who may be undecided about vaccinating their children against various diseases.
“The goal of the grant is to listen to any questions parents might have about vaccines and provide them with information based on scientific evidence that can help them make choices for their children that ultimately promote public health outcomes,” Gallimore said. “Since children are not yet old enough to make those decisions themselves, educating parents can help them make choices that protect their children while they are young from various diseases for the rest of their lives.”
Recruiting through social media, Gallimore plans to interview Missouri parents this spring and summer who are hesitant about whether to give their child a particular vaccine. In turn, she will answer any questions they may have, provide information emphasizing the safety and efficacy of various vaccines, and potentially identify factors that often play a role for parents when deciding whether to get their children vaccinated.
Gallimore earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Truman State University before earning a master’s degree in public health at MU. After working as an HIV case manager, Gallimore received an associate’s degree in nursing from Columbia College before accepting a job with Boone Hospital Center in the cardiac surgery unit. In 2014, she joined the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department as a public health nurse.
“Public health is my passion,” Gallimore said. “Going forward, my aim to is develop methods that assist with public health messaging regarding a variety of infectious diseases, such as a potential smartphone app later down the road. Every parent wants their child to be safe and healthy, so anything we can do to promote positive public health outcomes not only benefits individuals, but the overall community as well.”
Gallimore said her personal experience as a public health nurse inspired her research efforts.
“When I started working in the public health department, I was having these types of conversations day in and day out, which inspired me to think about ways I could use science and knowledge to help promote public health outcomes,” Gallimore said. “I think it is important to be open-minded, curious, and support efforts that keep children safe and healthy.”
Since 2020, Gallimore has assisted in COVID-19 contact tracing for the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services department. In years past, she has also helped provide free flu shots to various students who wanted one throughout Columbia Public Schools and other Boone County public school districts.
“It is great to see the coordination amongst Mizzou, the city of Columbia and Boone County,” Gallimore said. “Our efforts have helped reduce the spread of infectious diseases, and we want to continue to make a positive impact going forward.”
Funding for the grant was provided by a F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Nursing Research and NIH.