More than a third of children in Vigo County are behind on routine immunizations that protect them against serious illnesses, health officials say.
One major reason is that many doctor’s appointments where these injections would have been given have been canceled or postponed during COVID.
In Vigo County, 32.3% of K-12 students in Vigo County do not have all of the required vaccines, according to the Indiana Department of Health. This compares to 26.4% statewide.
Now health officials are encouraging families to catch up with their children with a “Back on Track” immunization event scheduled from 3pm to 7pm on Tuesday [Oct. 26] at the clinic of the Vigo County Health Department.
The event is sponsored by MDwise, the Vigo County Department of Health and the Indiana Department of Health, who also hosted an âAsk the Expertsâ webinar on Monday evening.
The panelists were Dr Darren Brucken, Vigo County Health Commissioner; Dr Chandrama Chakrabati, pediatrician and faculty member, IU School of Medicine, Terre Haute campus; and Torriaun Everett, vice president, health plan operations, MDwise.
Patrece Dayton of WTHI served as moderator.
According to Brucken, “With the advent of vaccines against things like polio and measles, we have been able to basically eradicate these diseases … from developed countries, for the most part.”
If these routine childhood immunization rates were to drop in the United States, some of these diseases could start to reappear.
He noted that chickenpox is much more dangerous for adults, especially the elderly, than for children. Older people can get pneumonia and even encephalitis.
With some of these diseases, like tetanus, there is no cure.
âWe cannot take this lightly,â Brucken said. “By not immunizing our children at an appropriate rate, we can easily see recurrences of these diseases.”
Everett said Back on Track events take place in communities furthest behind in childhood immunization.
âOur main goal is really to try to protect that herd immunity that we have had for so many years as well as to prevent there from being an additional public health emergency when we are already working to fight COVID- 19 “, he said.
Tuesday’s Children’s Vaccination Clinic is also open to non-residents of Vigo County.
Chakrabati encourages families with children behind in immunization to take advantage of Tuesday’s Back on Track event or see their family doctor.
âWith the pandemic going on, the past year has been pretty horrific,â she said. Sometimes doctors’ offices were closed and parents couldn’t come or maybe chose not to come.
âSo many of these kids are behind on vaccines,â she said.
Now, it’s time for these families – and these kids – to go back to their doctor’s office or immunization events, and get the immunizations they need to keep not only the kids healthy, but everyone else. .
âWe all need to be vaccinated. There is no shortcut,â she said.
Chakrabati said it was “easy to catch up” for those missed shots.
Brucken said he saw children with measles and chickenpox as well as a 16-year-old with cervical cancer from HPV. âWhen you see children who are terribly sick from preventable disease, it sticks to your skin,â he said.
âWe don’t want to see any of these diseases become widespread,â he said.
Brucken acknowledges that in the era of COVID, many have become politically divided when it comes to vaccinations.
âPeople have to realize that these routine vaccinations have been around for decadesâ¦ They’ve basically taken everyday illnesses like polio and made them preventable,â he said.
If people think of themselves as anti-vaccine politically, “It absolutely shouldn’t affect the choices you make to have your child update them on their regular immunizations,” he said. -he declares.
Treat the COVID vaccination as “a totally separate issue,” Brucken said. COVID is “a whole other discussion to have with your doctor and the people you trust.”
The webinar can be viewed on the MDwise, Inc. Facebook page.
Return on track clinic
At Tuesday’s Back on Track clinic, all routine childhood vaccinations, including measles, mumps, rubella, polio and HPV, will be available, as well as the COVID vaccine for children 12 and older.
The departmental health clinic, located at 696 S. First St. in the Vigo County annex building, will offer vaccines to Hoosier children who are late or at risk of falling behind in their childhood immunizations.
There will be a food truck, a bounce house, door prizes, free products and free food.
MDwise encourages parents and guardians to pre-register for MDwise.org/backontrack or by calling 812-462-3431, but you can still show up without registering in advance. Families are invited to bring their vaccination records.
Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult with a valid ID, such as a driver’s license, ID card or passport.
Insurance is not required for qualified children to be vaccinated, but if they are covered by health insurance, this information must be provided.
In a separate interview, Bill Riley, communications director for Vigo County School Corp., said the district plans to send notes this week to families whose children are behind on mandatory immunizations. These grades have exclusion dates, which means that on a certain date, if they are not fully immunized, they cannot go to school.
Every year the district has students who are behind on mandatory immunizations, but “it’s probably a little more this year,” Riley said.
The district will also notify parents / guardians where they can get the vaccine: Vigo County Health Department, Molly Wheat Memorial Clinic, Wabash Valley Health Center or their family doctor.