School is out for the summer! Parents and guardians, give yourselves a pat on the back for making it through another year and relax before starting on that back to school checklist you’ll be tackling soon.
One task that we hope you have on that checklist is making sure that your child is up-to-date on their vaccinations. Panhandle Health is hoping to make that task easy with our Back 2 School Clinics being offered throughout the five northern counties this summer.
“All vaccines required for school will be available at the clinics and the administration charge will be waived for those without insurance during the clinics,” said Lisa Hylsky, Panhandle Health District’s immunization coordinator. “Concerning data that we are finding is that Idaho, especially North Idaho, has a lower than average immunization rate and a high exemption rate.”
Data from the 2016-17 academic school year in Idaho and Coeur d’Alene School District shows that the percent of student records reported as meeting Idaho Immunization Requirements and the percent of records reported with all required immunizations have both decreased. Immunization exemptions have increased from last year in the district.
“Within our district, which covers Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai, Benewah and Shoshone, we have seen exemption rates steadily climb from 6.8% in 2009 to 14% in 2016,” said Hylsky. “This is concerning to us because being vaccinated not only protects the child, but it protects others who are unable to be vaccinated due to illnesses like cancer or when a newborn is still too young to receive vaccines.”
In 2016, the total exemption rates per county were as follows:
• Boundary: 16.9%
• Benewah: 5.1%
• Bonner: 19.4%
• Shoshone: 10%
• Kootenai: 13.5%
That means of the 7,647 students in grades kindergarten, 1st and 7th grades (ages when children receive boosters) in the Panhandle, 1,072 of them are not adequately immunized. Families who claim exemptions from immunizations for any reason are at an increased risk of developing a vaccine-preventable disease.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), children in families who have been granted a vaccine exemption are more than 35 times likely to contract measles and nearly six times more likely to contract pertussis. The Institute for Vaccine Safety found that states with relaxed exemption policies had approximately 50% more cases of whooping cough compared to states with stricter immunization laws.
Idaho is one of 16 states that allows for personal or “philosophical” reasons to exempt a child from receiving vaccines. There are three states that only allow medical exemptions and thirty-one states and the District of Columbia that allow medical and religious exemptions.
“Unvaccinated and under-vaccinated people can transmit disease,” said Kristina Meyer, Panhandle Health’s clinical services nurse manager. “That’s why we hope to vaccinate more people to create herd immunity, which is when the strong majority of people in a group are immune to a disease. Herd immunity helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated and are much more vulnerable to infections.”
Evidence from the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that a substantial proportion of the US measles cases in the time after measles had been eliminated were intentionally unvaccinated, and studies are showing that the pertussis resurgence is associated with intentionally not vaccinating as well.
In a study of 1,416 measles cases 56.8% had no history of measles vaccination, even though more than 70% of those cases were vaccine eligible. Regarding pertussis, an alarming statistic from the five largest statewide epidemics shows a substantial proportion of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated individuals. This study also showed that among these outbreaks, 59% to 93% of unvaccinated individuals were intentionally unvaccinated.
At Panhandle Health we understand that parents want to make the best decision for their children and protect them. That’s why if you have questions regarding how a vaccine works, what the potential side effects are, or even the vaccine ingredients, we want you to ask us, so you can make the best decision for your child.
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To check the dates for a Back 2 School Clinic near you, please visit our Community Calendar on www.panhandlehealthdistrict.org.
Katherine Hoyer is the Public Information Officer for Panhandle Health District.