ST. PAUL (August 2, 2011) — Minnesota child wellness experts are encouraging parents to add vaccinations to this year’s back-to-school checklist.
The percentage of Minnesota children receiving vaccinations is declining, which concerns many in the medical community. The Children’s Physician Network, Minnesota Medical Association, and Minnesota Head Start Association are working to raise awareness as part of August’s National Immunization Awareness Month.
Minnesota vaccination rates rank poorly. Only 58.1 percent of Minnesota children ages 24-35 months are up to date on all recommended vaccines.
The vaccination rate for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough among 11- to 12-year-olds is 52 percent, which is below the national average and ranks 35th among states. Going unvaccinated puts people at an unnecessary risk of acquiring vaccine-preventable diseases. The biggest danger is to infants who are not old enough to be vaccinated and get exposed to a variety of diseases.
“Immunization is one of the best decisions every parent can make to protect their child,” said Deborah Moses, senior director of Head Start and Early Head Start at Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties. “It’s like putting their child in a car seat.”
Recent outbreaks show that vaccine-preventable diseases have not been completely controlled. In 2010, 1,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in Minnesota. This spring, Hennepin County experienced one of the biggest measles outbreaks of the year in the U.S. More Minnesotans caught measles during this time than the past 13 years combined. The outbreak, which originated from an unvaccinated child, affected 20 people who had not been vaccinated or were too young to be vaccinated.
“Measles is highly contagious, and its complications can be serious,” said Michael Garvis, MD, a pediatrician practicing at South Lake Pediatrics, a member of Children’s Physician Network. “The only way to prevent it is to make sure you and your children are immunized. I strongly encourage Minnesotans to check their vaccination status to prevent future outbreaks.”
Immunization is commonly regarded as one of the greatest success stories in public health. Vaccines have eradicated smallpox and significantly reduced the number of cases of measles, polio, and other dangerous diseases.
Despite these efforts, an increasing number of Minnesotans are refusing or delaying shots for their children. Many parents have never witnessed the damaging effects of vaccine-preventable disease, which has led many to feel unconcerned about the importance of getting vaccinated. People refusing vaccines come from all socioeconomic situations, from the impoverished to the highly educated.
“There is no credible research supporting a link between autism and vaccines,” said Amy Gilbert, M.D., a family physician and chair of the Minnesota Medical Association Public Health Committee. “Many people continue to have this concern and refuse vaccines for this reason. We are still working hard to dispel this rumor and reinforce the importance of keeping children’s vaccines up to date. Our goal is for Minnesota to surpass a 90 percent overall vaccination rate.”
Immunization schedules: Minnesota’s recommended immunization schedule includes:
• For infants and young children: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), IPV (polio), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella (chicken pox), PCV (pneumococcal), hepatitis A and hepatitis B, rotavirus, influenza, and Haemophilus (Hib) vaccinations;
• For children ages 7 to 18: Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), MCV (meningococcal), influenza, and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccinations;
• For adults: Td (tetanus, diphtheria) vaccinations every 10 years and influenza vaccination annually.
Where to get vaccinated
• Doctors’ offices
• Medical clinics
• Urgent care facilities (not all)
• Walk-in clinics (not all)
Most Minnesota clinics are part of a program called Minnesota Vaccines for Children (MnVFC), which will cover the cost of the vaccines. Many clinics ask for a fee or donation to cover the cost of administering the shot. MnVFC distributes about $39 million worth of vaccines to public and private clinics in Minnesota each year.
Getting shots at the right ages is important, but it is never too late to catch up. Please see the full schedule of vaccinations under state vaccination law at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/immunize/laws/index.html.
Minnesotans may also call the Minnesota Department of Health at 800-657-3970 or 651-201-5503.
Children’s Physician Network is an 11-county pediatric clinician network aiming to improve the health status of children and adolescents, serve patients in all health plans, and unify the community behind pediatric health care issues. The network is comprised of more than 175 primary care clinicians, more than 500 specialty clinicians, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
Primary care clinicians serve pediatric patients living in the Twin Cities metropolitan area through over 40 clinic locations; specialty clinicians through more than 400 locations. The clinics range from one to 40 practitioners, and most of them are independent, community-based practices.
The Minnesota Medical Association is a professional association representing physicians, residents, and medical students, working together for a healthy Minnesota. With more than 11,000 members, the MMA is a powerful advocate on health care issues at the State Capitol and in Washington D.C.
The MMA provides up-to-date information about events affecting medicine in Minnesota, offers products and services that save time and money, and provides education for physicians and their clinic staff.
The Minnesota Head Start Association is a private not-for-profit membership organization dedicated exclusively to providing more than 15,000 income-eligible families and their children under age five with comprehensive family and child development services.
Head Start represents more than 1 million children nationally, advocating for policies that strengthen services by providing extensive training and professional development to Head Start staff; and by developing and disseminating research, information, and resources that enrich Head Start program delivery.
Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties brings together community resources to reduce poverty and help people help themselves. Community Action provides services such as early childhood education, energy services, and financial independence training.
The organization also advocates on its clients’ behalf for funding and services, and works to help shape public policy on poverty-related issues. As a nonpartisan, locally run, private nonprofit, Community Action is governed by a board composed of representatives from the low-income, government and business communities. Community Action has more than 300 employees and an annual budget of $25 million.
It is part of a network of 1,100 Community Action agencies nationwide. For more information about Community Action, visit www.caprw.org.