AVON, Ind. (AP) -
Indiana and national health officials launched a campaign Wednesday to ramp
up infant vaccinations in the wake of recent whooping cough and other
Commissioner William VanNess and a Centers Disease Control and Prevention
official announced the initiative at Indiana University Health West in Avon
during National Infant Immunization Week, which runs through May 3.
While Indiana is
third in the nation for adolescent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
vaccines and meningococcal vaccines, the state falls in the bottom half for
on-time infant immunizations at only 61 percent for children age 19-35
months, health department spokeswoman Amy Reel said.
“Today we take for
granted the low disease rates that we have,” said Anne Schuchat, director of
the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases and
assistant surgeon general. “But diseases are still all around the world.”
VanNess will send a
congratulatory card with a vaccine checklist to parents of every newborn in
Indiana as part of a statewide push for higher rates of on-time infant
vaccination. Hallmark funds the greeting cards, which first were used in
Missouri and Kansas almost two decades ago.
parents sometimes wait until their children are about to enter school, where
vaccinations are required for entry.
That could mean
putting children at risk for the months or weeks before they get the shots,
“We were going to
do it regardless,” said Craig Monnett of Brownsburg, who along with his wife
Amy received the first congratulatory card for their four-month-old son Liam
during Wednesday’s announcement. “It was never a question.”
But some parents
fear vaccinations could lead to autism - which VanNess disputes - and never
vaccinate their children.
vaccine requirements if parents cite a religious or medical concern.
Only about 1
percent of children nationwide are not vaccinated, but Schuchat said
communities with higher rates of unvaccinated children have a greater risk
of outbreaks of diseases that have been virtually eliminated in the country.
Indiana ranks comparably to national rates for nonmedical vaccine
exemptions, but four states including Michigan have exemption rates higher
than 5 percent.
Officials warn that
could mean greater risk of catching diseases that could be prevented with
For example, the
CDC classified measles as virtually eradicated in 2000, but this year
brought the highest number of cases so far in the year since 1996. Diseases
often are contracted outside of the United States and brought in state,
Schuchat said. One case of whooping cough was reported in a Carmel
elementary school in March, and the Marion County Public Health Department
announced this week that visitors to a Teavana tea shop in Indianapolis
could have been exposed to Hepatitis A.
Reel said outbreaks
of whooping cough, measles, mumps and chicken pox have hit the state in
parents who never saw measles or other now-preventable diseases in action
might not realize their dangers, and diagnosing the diseases can be
difficult because fewer doctors have been exposed to them.
getting children vaccinated in time can save lives.
really do not need to happen,” VanNess said. “They are preventable.”