At its most basic, immunization is a numbers game: the greater the percentage of the population that is immunized, the lower the risk of contracting the disease. Immunization not only protects the people who are immunized, but others around them who could be vulnerable to the disease, such as unimmunized infants and elderly or sick people.
In 2011, there were 23 cases of measles in Minnesota. We saw many of them in our clinics and emergency departments. We have also seen increased cases of whooping cough, chicken pox, and influenza. Despite having a long standing tradition of being one of the highest overall immunizations rates in the country, Minnesota’s vaccination rates have been steadily decreasing.
In just two years, Minnesota slipped 13 places from seventh place in 2007 to 20th place in 2009 for vaccination coverage rates for the primary series of shots among all children 19 through 35 months of age. And we know that lower rates of immunizations means higher rates of preventable diseases, many of which have serious consequences including death.
Children's works to ensure that vaccines are accessible and affordable for all Minnesota’s children. We support the Vaccines for Children Program (MnVFC) and work with communities and public health departments on providing accurate information and access to free flu vaccines.
Our own Children’s Check-Up 2: Vaccinations and the Challenges Confronting Minnesota Children, delves into the worrisome trends in declining immunization rates and the public health risks it poses. The report found several places where Minnesota has weaknesses: adolescent immunizations; an increasing wariness of new vaccines among parents; complacency about vaccine-preventable diseases; and the special case of influenza immunizations.
In addition to our white paper, we also held a Vaccination Awareness Forum in April 2011, which brought together public, private, and community organizations to kick-off a statewide call to action. The forum included our own nationally recognized vaccination expert Patsy Stinchfield, Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases; Dr. Martin Myers, professor of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and director of the National Network for Immunizations; Dr. Edward Ehlinger, Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner; Dr. Robert Jacobson, Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Immunization Task Force Chair, and U.S. Representative Betty McCollum. The forum also featured testimonials from two mothers and vaccination advocates who told their own courageous and emotional stories and pleaded with attendees to truly understand the impact of foregoing vaccinations and immunizations and to dismiss the myths around the dangers of vaccination.
Learn more about Children’s involvement with vaccinations and immunizations from our Kids Health Blog.