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Importance of maintaining high child immunization rates is focus of National Infant Immunization Week April 24-May 1


Thu, Apr 22nd, 2010
Posted in Health & Wellness

Infant and childhood immunizations are responsible for nearly eliminating many diseases that once killed thousands of children each year in the United States. While Minnesota's rate of childhood immunizations is relatively high, many children are under-vaccinated, leaving them vulnerable to illnesses that were once thought nearly eradicated and making it easier for some diseases to get a foothold in communities and spread.

With National Infant Immunization Week April 24-May 1, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is calling attention to the importance of infant and childhood immunizations. MDH is suggesting story ideas that highlight various aspects of childhood immunizations in Minnesota including:

While relatively high, Minnesota's immunization rate has been stagnating recently at about 80 percent - and there are indications that in some areas it may be declining. What are the factors that contribute to immunization rates? Why is it important to maintain high immunization rates? How does Minnesota compare to other states?

Reasons for low immunization rates are multifaceted and hard to address, but we know from Census data that these areas typically parallel areas of poverty. The federally-funded Minnesota Vaccines for Children program pays for vaccine for those who don't have insurance to cover them. No child age 18 and under need go without vaccine because their parents do not have health insurance or their insurance does not cover vaccination. Many new parents are not aware of the program, and parents who have recently lost their insurance coverage after losing their jobs may not be aware that they are eligible for the program.

Lower or stagnating immunization rates may also be due to parents' misunderstanding and misperceptions about vaccines. For example, we know that some parents have been reluctant to vaccinate because of beliefs in a connection between vaccines and autism, or that too many vaccines at once can harm a young child. The scientific evidence does not support these contentions. Interview a nationally known, Minnesota-based immunization expert on some of the common myths and truths about vaccines.

Find out what can happen when vaccination rates fall in a community and vulnerable children are left exposed to disease. (Hib in MN in 2008; measles in England and Europe).

Interview a parent whose child suffered a life-threatening disease after being infected by unvaccinated children in the community.

Local health care providers can talk about the importance of infant and childhood immunizations, their experiences with childhood diseases, how they work with parents to meet their needs and concerns.

Many children often miss important immunizations because they change doctors frequently or move from place to place. Find out how immunization registries can help to maintain high immunization levels by helping health care providers keep track of a child's immunization history. Find out how providers in your area use the registry, what their experiences have been.

Contact Doug Schultz at 651-201-4993 to connect with the appropriate spokespeople at MDH or in your community.

Public Service Announcements

In addition, a variety of public service announcements for television and radio about infant immunizations are available for download from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Follow this link:

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/2010/psa.htm.

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