Colorado’s immunizationrate could use a boost |

Colorado’s immunizationrate could use a boost

Ivy Vogel
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson W/ IV STORY Leopoldo Vigil, 8, puts on a brave face as he gets a Hepatitis B shot from Yvonne Long, R.N., at the Garfield County Public Health Nursing Service Thursday afternoon. Vigil also received a MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccination.

In 1916, a polio epidemic in the United States killed 6,000 people. By the early 1950s, more than 20,000 cases of polio, which is a virus that causes paralysis, were reported each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.In 1955, a vaccination for the polio virus was developed and for the last 20 years, no wild polio has been reported in the United States.Vaccinations, like the polio vaccination, were developed to prevent the spread of serious health epidemics. The state of Colorado requires students to have immunizations to fight against nine different diseases. However, only 67 percent of 19-month-olds to 35-month-olds in Colorado are fully vaccinated, according to the National Immunization Survey. That is one of the lowest immunization rates in the nation.When these children reach school age, parents are required to prove their child has immunizations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and polio. According to Colorado law, if a school determines that a child’s immunizations are incomplete, the parents have 14 days after receiving written notification from the school to make sure their child receives his or her first required immunization. The parent must give the school a written plan for when the rest of the immunizations will be completed.If a parent fails to get a child’s shots updated within that time frame, their child is supposed to be excluded from school, said Mary Jo Spain, school nurse for Glenwood Springs schools.Before excluding students, Glenwood schools call parents and send them several letters, said Spain.”There isn’t an immunization policeman standing outside the school doors,” Spain said. “Kids aren’t allowed in without proof of immunization. However we do not always know if the child has a complete series of shots.”

Many times, parents opt not to have their kids vaccinated. Colorado is one of 19 states that allow parents to excuse their children from all immunizations by citing philosophical reasons. There is no universal definition of what constitutes a philosophical reason so any child can forgo immunizations if their parent cites philosophical reasons.In the United States, exemptions resulting from philosophical reasons account for less than 1 percent of all exemptions, according to the National Immunization survey.Spain estimates that in a given year, 3 percent of students in Glenwood Springs schools cite philosophical reasons for not getting shots.Families can also cite religious or medical reasons for not getting a vaccination. Medical reasons must be supported by a doctor.Colorado has one of the lowest immunization rates in the nation for young children, according to the National Immunization study.Philosophical reasons allow anyone to claim exemptions but there are other reasons Colorado has a low immunization record, Spain said.Colorado doesn’t have a centralized registration system, which makes tracking records cumbersome. Currently, there is no way for doctors and clinics across the state to share medical information with each other. With a centralized registration system, any doctor or clinic in the state could bring up any child’s immunization records, Spain said.Immunization records are public records.Affordability is also a problem.

Sometimes families who can’t afford vaccinations have a hard time finding doctors or clinics supporting the Vaccines for Children Program so they forgo the vaccination, Spain said. The VFC program allows underprivileged children to get free vaccinations.Vaccination shortages, like the shortage of Diphtheria Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP) that happened a couple of years ago, put children behind in their vaccinations, Spain said. Once a child gets behind, parents often forget to bring their child back in.”We really want to emphasize the parent’s responsibility to keep track of their child’s records,” said Sara Harter, immunization administrator for Garfield County Public Health. “It works to their benefit because it keeps the child up to date.”Vaccination horror stories and rumors prevent some kids from getting shots, Harter said.A couple of years ago, many parents believed the MMR shot, used to prevent measles, mumps and rubella, caused autism, which is a developmental disorder, Harter said. As a result, several parents didn’t bring their children in, Harter said.”Educated parents are more hesitant to rush into getting their kid immunized because they want to do more research about the immunization,” Harter said.Garfield County Public Health and school districts throughout Garfield County are working hard to get children proper immunizations.Garfield County Public Health offices charge $8 per shot, Harter said. Garfield County Public Health keeps track of immunizations for clients with children under 5 and sends immunization reminders to parents, Harter said.Immunizations are a preventive measure to protect the public from harmful diseases, Harter said.”This is a plausible health issue that can affect all of us,” said Harter. “It’s very important that we all work together.”

Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.comImmunization requirements for grades K-12 Diphtheria Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP) – Tetanus causes serious, painful spasms of all muscles. It also causes lockjaw and is spread by a germ that enters the body through a cut or wound. Diphtheria causes breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and death. It’s spread by germs passing from an infected person to the nose or throat of a healthy person. Pertussis, or whooping cough, attacks the respiratory system. The DTaP vaccination requires a series of five shots and children in K-12 grade need all five shots. Hepatitis B – Attacks the liver and can cause, jaundice, pain in the muscles, joints and stomach, liver damage and liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccination can prevent a form of liver cancer and is the first anti-cancer vaccine. Hepatitis B is spread through blood, unprotected sex and infected needles. The hepatitis vaccination is a series of three shots. All three shots are required for school-aged children. Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) – Measles causes rashes, cough and fever. It can lead to ear infection, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. Mumps cause fever, headache and swollen glands. It can lead to deafness and infections in the brain and spinal covering. Rubella causes rash, mild fever and arthritis. If a woman gets rubella while pregnant, she can have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects. This is a series of two shots needed by all school-age children.Varicella (chicken pox) – This is a common childhood disease but can become serious. Children younger than 1 should get one shot. Children over 13 should have two doses of the vaccination.Polio – Polio sometimes causes paralysis and enters a person through their mouth. This is a series of four shots and all school-age children should have four shots.Many of the shots can be administered only under special provisions. For more information or to set up an appointment, call Garfield County Public Health in Glenwood at 945-6614 or in Rifle at 625-5200. Garfield County Public Health has bilingual capabilities.Many of the shots can be administered only under special provisions. For more information or to set up an appointment, call Garfield County Public Health in Glenwood at 945-6614 or in Rifle at 625-5200. Garfield County Public Health has bilingual capabilities.

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