Fargo Cass Public Health Director to retire after 32 years of service, says focus needs to be placed on vaccination trends

Courtesy: Fargo Cass Public Health
Courtesy: Fargo Cass Public Health

(Fargo, ND) -- A key member of Fargo Cass Public Health is retiring after 32 years of service in July of 2024. 

Fargo Cass Public Health Director Desi Fleming announced she is seeking to retire on July 5th, 2024. Fleming served FCPH since 1992, once as a Public Health Nurse, then a Public Health Nursing Manager, a Director of Nursing, and then the Director of FCPH since 2018. 

“Regardless of the role, I’ve always taken pride in the work that I do, the people that I have served and the many connections I’ve made along the way.  I have felt so very fortunate to be a part of this community and -- within my role as a nurse and a leader -- to be able to make an impact on the health of many lives." said Fleming.

Fleming was also a person local and regional leaders sought the council of during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also "standing firm in the face of adversity" during uncertain times. Fleming says this is because FCPH had the support of everyone at first, but that slowly dipped as the pandemic progressed.

"We went through this period where we were really popular at the first part of it. Then we went through the part where people were tired of masks and tired of hearing of vaccines. Then there was that mistrust of Government and the CDC. That was really hard for us."

One key message Fleming wanted to highlight as a crucial message was the need to maintain vaccination numbers. An increasing number of parents and families are not vaccinating kids for a multitude of reasons according to the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services. This includes moral or philosophical reasons, which an estimated 3.4% of all families across North Dakota in Q4 of 2023 cited as the reason they chose to opt out of vaccinations. Religious exemptions made up 0.6% all families in the same time frame. Adolescents in the state also saw a similar hike in exemptions, with an estimated 5.97% of all teens refusing for this reason in the same time window. 

The data takes into account all available vaccines, not just available COVID-19 doses. However, Fleming says the trend is still true for other immunizations.

"Some of the routine vaccinations across our state and across the nation, the numbers are going down, Which is really-really scary and I don't think people realize how scary that is." said Fleming. 

Original Air Date: 
Tuesday, February 13, 2024