Vanderburgh County Receiving State Grant to Raise Immunization Rates

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EVANSVILLE, INDIANA — Immunizations are important for children. In fact, they’re required.

“If they don’t receive those immunizations by the time they go to kindergarten, they won’t be allowed to go to school,” Johnna Denning, who works at the Vanderburgh County Health Department, said.

But according to Vanderburgh County Health Department’s Ken Spear, waiting until that time could be too late to stop preventable diseases from affecting a child.

“When I started this job, one of the things I noticed was vaccinations for young children up to the age of 3 was only 52 percent, and I was curious about that,” Spear, who is the Health Office Administrator, said. “Seemed low to me.”

Vanderburgh County is now hoping to raise that number, and it is getting some help from the state. The Indiana State Health Department is giving the county’s health department an $180,000 grant to fund the local immunization initiative.

Vanderburgh County is one of 17 counties in Indiana to receive an immunization grant. The grant was awarded to the healh department in partnership with Deaconess Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, EVSC, ECHO and childcare agency 4C. The funding will be used for an educational campaign, which includes commercials and informational websites.

“We know that parents need to be informed as to which vaccines are required, which vaccines are important for their child to have and why those are important,” Dave McCormick, the director of the Indiana Immunization Division of the Indiana State Department of Health, said. “We know vaccines, when administered appropriately and at the right time frame can reduce illness in children.”

The Vanderburgh County Health Department will also work with childhood service providers, physicians and schools to report immunization data into the Children and Hoosiers Immunization Registry Program (CHIRP). Legislation in 2013 now mandates all healthcare providers giving vaccines to people under 19 have to report information on administered doses of vaccinations.

“We hope that that will give a more accurate picture of what actually the immunization state is in Vanderburgh County,” McCormick said.

As grant manager, Denning applied for the grant last year. She says the program is hoping to increase the childhood immunization rate from 52 percent to 55 percent over the next 12 months, but the end goal is even higher.

“We’d like to see it at 80 percent, and that’s kind of our pie in the sky goal.”

The program is also collecting survey data on public opinions on vaccinations and barriers to immunization.

The survey can be found on www.vaxtoday.com and will stay open through April 13.

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