New Teen Immunization Data: The Good and the Bad

Newly released immunization data for school-age teens shows Idaho made steady improvement in overall vaccination rates, but experienced a decline in the vaccine that protects against pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough. With children preparing to go back to school, parents are urged to make medical appointments to protect them before the school year begins.

The 2014 National Immunization Survey (NIS) data for adolescents and teens shows Idaho continues to make steady improvement in the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) cancer vaccine, along with a big increase in teens protected against meningococcal infection. However, the rate of protection against pertussis slightly declined, drawing concern from public health officials with Idaho’s low rate.

“During the last five years, the pertussis infection rate among Idaho teens has multiplied, along with an increasing number of cases each year,” says Dr. Christine Hahn, M.D., state medical director. “This is a threat to our communities, especially to babies who can contract severe illness from pertussis from their big brothers and sisters. If your children are not fully vaccinated, please make the effort to ensure they are safe before the start of school.”

Three vaccines are recommended for adolescents. Idaho requires Tdap and meningococcal vaccines for seventh grade school entry unless an exemption is received, and recommends the HPV cancer vaccine.  The 2014 NIS survey of teen vaccination rates for these three vaccines shows:

Immunization_chart1

The meningococcal vaccine protects children and young adults from meningitis, which can cause a severe and life-threatening inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord. Two doses are recommended for adolescents, with the first at age 11 followed by a second at 16. Idaho’s rate for the first dose improved from 71 percent of teens to 78 percent during 2014, according to the NIS survey.

The HPV vaccine is one of the first vaccines developed to prevent cancer. It protects against the majority of the strains of human papillomavirus that can cause cervical, vaginal, anal and throat cancers. Adolescents develop the strongest immunity and protection if the first dose of the vaccine is given at age 11.

Idaho’s Tdap vaccine rates declined slightly in the NIS survey data, from 73 percent in 2013 to 70 percent in 2014. This vaccine protects against tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis. Disease data for pertussis cases reported in Idaho during the last five years shows an increasing trend. The incidence rate for pertussis among teens ages 13-17  has increased more than comparative rates of children and adults, clearly showing an increasing public health problem in this age group.  The pertussis incidence rate in 2010 was 12.1 infections per 100,000 children aged 13-17 years, quadrupling to 55 per 100,000 in 2014.

Immunization_chart2

With this growing problem and the approaching school year, here are some helpful tips for parents:

  • Check your child’s immunization history with your primary care provider or the clinic that administers your child’s vaccines.
  • Get more information on the vaccines recommended for children and teens at www.immunizeidaho.com
  • Schedule an immunization appointment now to beat the back-to-school rush.

Health officials also urge parents and providers to use office visits for sports physicals and minor injuries or illnesses to make sure children and adolescents are up to date on their vaccines.

If vaccine costs are a concern, almost all insurance programs cover the recommended vaccines. Parents also can ask their clinic or provider about the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. The VFC program offers free or low cost shots to children 18 years old and younger who do not have medical insurance, are enrolled in Medicaid, are Native American or Alaska Native, or whose insurance doesn’t cover the cost of the vaccine. No children are denied vaccines because of the inability to pay for them.

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