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Child immunization rates greatly vary by county, state report shows

Posted: 6:00 AM, May 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-09 09:45:03-04
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BLOOMINGTON — Alyson McGhie is a mother to two young boys, and she worries about diseases like the measles and mumps.

Measles has reached a 25-year high in the United States , with 700 cases across the country.

So far, Indiana has one case of the measles and 36 mumps cases, and state health officials are urging vaccinations to help stop the spread of infectious diseases.

That’s why McGhie chooses to get her children, Evan and Miles, vaccinated.

“We just want to take that preventative measure that’s very safe and harmless that can protect them from something that is very harmful,” McGhie said.

On the day Call 6 Investigates visited IU Health Riley Physicians in Bloomington, McGhie’s 1-year old son received the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

“I hope to keep him from getting sick and keep the community safe, because I know if they’re unvaccinated, they’re putting other children at risk who are unable to be vaccinated yet,” McGhie said.

Call 6 Investigates found how completely children are vaccinated varies greatly depending on where you live in the state of Indiana.

McGhie lives in Monroe County — a county with one of the highest vaccination rates in the state of Indiana at 83 percent, compared to the state’s average of 70 percent.

The CDC recommends children ages 19 to 35 months receive a series of vaccinations known as the “4:3:1:3:3:1:4” immunization series which includes least four doses of DTaP, three doses of polio, and at least one dose of MMR.

According to a report released from the Indiana State Department of Health, the average immunization rate for that series is 70%.

TEN HIGHEST RATES BY COUNTY

COUNTY SERIES COMPLETION RATE
Lawrence 84%
Spencer 84%
Monroe 83%
Cass 82%
Warrick 81%
Gibson 80%
Owen 80%
Greene 80%
Wayne 79%
Rush 79%

IU Health Riley Physicians, where McGhie takes her children, is one of the largest providers of vaccinations in Monroe County.

Pediatrician Dr. Scot Moore is not surprised Monroe County ranks among the highest immunization rates in the state.

“We're very proud of that fact. We put a lot of energy and resources into making sure that kids get vaccinated,” Dr. Moore said. “When we see a child for a well visit, or sick visit or stitches — we check their vaccination record and make sure they're up to date."

In Monroe County — partnerships are key.

IU Health Riley Physicians partners with the Monroe County Public Health Clinic, and both are enrolled in a federally funded program that allows them to vaccinate disadvantaged children.

“Any kiddo that has Medicaid or is uninsured, or whose insurance doesn’t cover immunizations can come in and get immunizations for free,” Amy Meek, program manager at the Monroe County Public Health Clinic, said. “I think because we have so many partners in the community, we are able to do more.”

They also partner with the Monroe County Community School Corporation to hold vaccination clinics throughout the year in elementary schools.

"We think that's extremely important and we think that's one of the reasons why the rate is so high,” said Andrea Mobley, assistant superintendent of human resources and operations at Monroe County Community School Corporation. “I think it stresses the importance of vaccinations and it helps parents understand vaccinations are safe and effective in preventing diseases."

Mobley said the vaccination clinics allow parents to get their children immunized without having to miss work for doctor’s appointments.

“We offer all the vaccines that are required,” Mobley said. “We have great partnerships with the health community in town.”

READ | Required and Recommended Immunizations in Indiana

The school corporation has had one confirmed case of mumps, and the student is already healthy and back in school.

Records show some Indiana counties have vaccination rates as low as 49%.

TEN LOWEST RATES BY COUNTY

COUNTY SERIES COMPLETION RATE
LaGrange 49%
Daviess 53%
Martin 54%
Dearborn 54%
Crawford 56%
Allen 58%
Lake 58%
Grant 59%
St. Joseph 59%
Hendricks 60%

In Central Indiana, Grant County has the lowest vaccination rate at 59%

The Grant County Health Department declined our requests for an on-camera interview with RTV6.

“The hurdle we come up against is lack of education provided to the parents on the importance of getting their child immunized,” Amber Turner, Grant County Health Department Public Health Nurse, said in an email to RTV6. “I can’t speak on behalf of the providers in Grant County and the barriers they have with children not being immunized.”

The Indiana State Department of Health declined an on-camera interview, but in a newly released report, the agency said they plan to look into why some counties have higher vaccination rates than others.

ISDH said “achieving high vaccination rates is attainable” and “additional efforts are needed to ensure that health-care providers administer recommended vaccinations and use each visit as an opportunity to ensure each child is fully vaccinated on time with every recommended vaccine.”

ISDH does not track vaccination rates by school, however, they are working with the Indiana Immunization Coalition and the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health to generate a new rate report by school corporation by the start of the next school year.

As for Monroe County, they have no plans of letting up their efforts to keep its community vaccinated.

“We can’t relax on that, so that’s something we have to continually work on,” said Meek. “If we relax, then that’s more that might not get immunized.”

They may become a model for other communities in the state who are looking to vaccinate more children.

“I would encourage other counties to look at who their community partners are,” Meek said. “Everyone has someone they can partner with whether it’s schools, government agencies. The more you work together, the healthier your community will be.”

Tonight on the News at 11:00, Call 6 Investigates looks into why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children including doubts surrounding the effectiveness of the MMR vaccine.