New Childhood Immunization Campaign Kicks Off
Each year, thousands of children become ill from diseases that could have been prevented by basic childhood immunizations. Countless more miss time from child care and school because they are under-immunized or inappropriately immunized. During the week of April 25- May 2, the Spokane Regional Health District will observe National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), by kicking off a local effort to raise the immunization rates of Spokane's children.
"Public Health experts agree that about 90% of the population needs to be immunized in order to stop outbreaks from spreading," said Kristi Siahaya, from the Spokane Regional Health District's Communicable Disease Prevention program. "Unfortunately our rates are not that high, leaving our community vulnerable to outbreaks of measles, mumps and other vaccine-preventable diseases."
There are serious consequences if parents choose not to immunize their children. Most importantly, vaccine-preventable illnesses can be life threatening. Additionally, when a child or student is diagnosed with pertussis or another vaccine-preventable disease, other student, employees or children at daycare who are not fully immunized may be exposed. Employees and children will be sent home from school or child care until the risk of exposure has ended.
In the case of pertussis (whooping cough), the absence will be for 21 days or five days if they choose to take a 14-day course of preventive antibiotics. For most vaccine-preventable diseases, there are no preventive antibiotics that can be prescribed and the exclusion may last several weeks. Extended school absences can be very challenging for children, families and schools.
In the first few months of this year, Spokane has already seen two cases of whooping cough (pertussis) and four cases of bacterial meningitis, very serious diseases that can often be prevented through simple vaccinations.
The Protect Yours immunization campaign was developed with input from Spokane mothers who identified the barriers they experience in immunizing their children. Protect Yours has three primary components: 1. Gathering information from moms on immunization hesitancy and barriers to immunizing. 2. Conducting pilot-project immunization clinics in non-traditional settings to identify if alternative vaccination sites help parents to get their child's immunizations up-to-date. 3. Providing accurate and reliable educational materials through a marketing campaign which includes: printed materials, advertisements, radio spots, billboards, and a website (www.protectyours.org). The campaign focuses on increasing immunization rates in Spokane County for four different preventable illnesses: varicella (chickenpox), rotavirus (a serious contagious diarrheal illness in very young children), children's influenza, and human papilloma virus (HPV).
The campaign encourages parents to talk to their doctor about immunizations. Education and promotional materials are also being given to area healthcare facilities to assist in patient education efforts. The community can access campaign materials and information at the www.protectyours.org website.
Spokane County Statistics
- The percent of Spokane County schoolchildren (grades K-12) whose parents have signed an immunization exemption has risen from 5.4% in 2002-2003school year to 6.8% in 2007-2008. Exemptions are higher in Spokane than in Washington State.
- In a county-wide survey of parents whose children attend child care centers that received services from public health nurses, one in four parents whose children were not immunized, indicated that convenience and price were barriers to immunizing.
- During our spring school-based pilot immunization clinics held at a few selected schools throughout the County in March and April, we offered and provided 493 childhood immunizations.
- The 2007 National Immunization Survey shows that 69 % of Washington children aged 19-35 months have a complete vaccination series, down from 71 % in 2006.
- Washington State schoolchildren (K-12) have the highest rate of parent-signed immunization exemptions in the nation. The rate has risen from 3.8% in the 2002-2003 to 5.2% during the 2007-2008 school year.