Results from the 2002 National Immunization Survey released recently indicate that immunization coverage among children 19 month to 35 months remains at an all-time high, with national coverage rates at 75 percent. However, here in Montana, that rate stands at just 67 percent, and public misconceptions about the need for vaccines put communities at risk for the spread of health-threatening infectious disease.
"Even though immunization coverage among children in the United States is the highest ever recorded for most vaccines, we must not forget that these diseases once existed and could easily return if we become complacent and let down our guard," said Dr. Walter A. Orenstein, director of the CDC National Immunization Program. "We cannot take our prevention successes for granted. Many challenges remain."
In addition to coverage gaps, new NIP research also gives insight into the barriers that prevent some people in the United States from getting immunized. An estimated 15 percent of the adult population believes that vaccines are not necessary to prevent certain diseases. Of the 15 percent, 64 percent do not believe it is easy to get trusted information about immunization. Moreover, 46 percent of adults with a
child age 19 or younger living at home do not believe that it is important to vaccinate their child to protect against the spread of disease in their community.
Adults who decide not to be immunized, or who refuse to immunize their children, risk contracting preventable diseases that can then be passed to others within the community. "Vaccines are the most widely used and effective means of protecting our communities against infectious disease," said David A. Neumann, NIP executive director. "While annual cases of common vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps and rubella, are on the decline, others, such as pertussis or whooping cough, are rising. Adhering to vaccine guidelines for children, adolescents and adults is our best defense against these life-threatening and debilitating illnesses."
For children to be allowed to attend Havre Public Schools, they must comply with national immunization guidelines. That means that a child entering kindergarten must have received the following vaccinations: three polio, with the last being given after the age of 4; four DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) with the last being given after the age of 4; one MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) before they can attend kindergarten and another sometime before entering sixth grade
Children are not the only ones who need to be vaccinated. Adults need a tetanus/diphtheria booster every 10 years, and annual influenza immunization is appropriate for children and adults, particularly those with chronic illnesses. Anyone over 65 years of age should receive a pneumonia vaccination, and Hepatitis B is recommended for adults with medical, behavioral, occupational or other indications.
Please find out if you and your loved ones are up-to-date, and if not, vaccinate. By protecting ourselves and our families with recommended vaccines, we also protect those around us who would be exposed to the vaccine-preventable diseases.
For more information on vaccinations, contact the Hill County Health Depart-ment at 265-5481, ext. 266. You may also contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206 for more information.