It is hard to believe that it is already August. Summer is coming to a close and soon school will be starting back up, and because of this, August is also National Immunization Awareness Month.
While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals.
For school entrance, students must show proof of diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, haemophilus influenza type b, hepatitis b, varicella and pneumococcal (depending on age) vaccinations.
But, thanks to ongoing anti-vaccine propaganda, that’s not necessarily the case everywhere. An increasing number of parents are choosing to forgo their kids’ MMR shot based on scientifically inaccurate claims that it can lead to autism. The actress and model Jenny McCarthy, who’s a prominent anti-vaccine activist, has a lot to do with that.
By 2008, about one in four adults reported they were familiar with McCarthy’s views about vaccines, and 40 percent of them said her claims led them to question vaccine safety. This issue hasn’t died down since then; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his wife, former reality TV star Kristin Cavallari, said they won’t vaccinate their kids over fears about autism
Federal health officials have already been able to connect the dots here. Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report warning that anti-vaccine beliefs have fueled a rise in measles cases. Researchers noted that 2013 saw the highest number of measles cases in nearly two decades, and 80 percent of those cases occurred among unvaccinated people — most of whom cited “philosophical differences” with the MMR vaccine.
Many of the measles outbreaks here in the U.S. originate after an unvaccinated individual has traveled abroad and contracted the disease there. Then, when they return to this country, they can spread measles among pockets of other unvaccinated people. This isn’t an issue if most people simply get the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
An NBC 5 investigation found that vaccine rates were low for Chicagoland school children. Their report found that hundreds of public and private schools in Chicago and suburbs have high levels of students with no records of vaccinations – sometimes more than a third of the students in a single school.
“Vaccines are an important step in protecting against serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives. They are proven to protect children from 14 serious diseases before they turn two years old, adolescents from cancer caused by certain types of HPV, young adults from meningitis, people of all ages from flu, and aging populations from various illnesses.”
Each week during National Immunization Awareness Month, IDPH will highlight vaccinations for a different population on Facebook at IDPH.Illinois.
Illinois is one of only five states that showed a significant increase (12 percent) in one or more doses of HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine coverage in girls from 2012 to 2013, and one of only four states with a significant increase (almost 13 percent) in three or more doses of HPV vaccine.
Illinois has undertaken several initiatives that have contributed to increased HPV vaccination coverage, such as working with health care partners to discuss and facilitate HPV vaccination health promotion activities and interventions, providing physician HPV vaccination training, and conducting provider assessment and feedback visits focused on increasing vaccination coverage.
For adults, the flu vaccine is already being shipped out to some states. And it is suggested that adults receive the vaccine before the beginning of the flu season in September.