State near the top in immunization coverage

Tue, 04/25/2006 - 1:21pm
By: The Citizen

Georgia ranks fourth in the nation for immunization coverage for children according to the 2004 National Immunization Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The survey indicates that 82% of two-year-old children received all recommended vaccines compared with the national average of 76.0%, including: Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type B, and Varicella (chickenpox).

Dr. Stuart Brown, director of the Division of Public Health at the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR), said, Immunizing children is the best way to prevent childhood preventable diseases and reduce the cost of hospitalizations.

So, during National Infant Immunization Week, we are reemphasizing with our private healthcare providers, local health departments, other immunization partners, and community leaders the importance of reminding parents and caregivers about the need for annual and routine immunizations for two year-olds.
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 22-29, provides an opportunity to educate and raise awareness among parents, caregivers, providers, and communities about the importance of timely infant immunizations.

During this week, DHR has chosen to focus on the immunization of 2 year-olds against the fourteen vaccine-preventable diseases prescribed by the Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule, and to increase the number of vaccinated infants, children, adolescents, and adults in the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services, also known as GRITS.

Immunizations are cost effective, said Michelle Conner, director of DHR’s Immunization Program. Studies have shown that for every dollar spent, the routine childhood vaccination program saves more than five dollars in direct health care costs and approximately eleven dollars in additional costs to the nations health care system.

For example the, mumps vaccine, which protects against the disease, will help protect Georgia’s two year-olds and adults from an outbreak like the recent one in Iowa where there were 515 reported mumps cases. The mumps outbreak is possibly linked to six neighboring states, which include Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

One of Georgia’s resources is the Vaccines for Children Program (V.C.), which began over 10 years ago, and is coordinated by the Georgia Immunization Program. The Georgia V.C. Program provides free vaccines to private and public providers for children birth through 18 years of age who are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian/Alaska Native, uninsured, or underinsured (children whose vaccinations are not covered by insurance).

Currently, 3,329 private physicians and other health care practitioners at 1,050 locations participate in V.C., in addition to 232 public health clinics throughout Georgia. Annually, the Georgia V.C. Program supplies more than 2.5 million doses of vaccine to public health clinics and other providers, including hospitals and private physicians, throughout the state.

More than 70 percent of the vaccines given to children in Georgia are administered in private physician offices. The Immunization Programs partnerships have greatly contributed to its success. The program works closely with the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians in making sure that the latest vaccine recommendations and information is communicated to academy members.

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