Utah ranks 47th in child immunizations

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Utah children are ranked fourth to last in national immunizations, according to a recent U policy brief.

In the 2006 National Immunization Survey, the state of Utah came in 47th in the nation for the number of 2-year-old children who have received all immunizations on schedule, as set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tricia Jacks, the graduate research assistant for the Center of Public Policy and Administration, compiled the brief and said Utah’s low ranking could be attributed to many factors.

The first factor, Jacks said, is that many parents believe diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella are diseases of the past and do not require immunization. Jacks said this idea is false.

“What they don’t realize is that the main reason we don’t see these diseases so often now is because of the success of immunization programs,” she said.

Utah’s high birth rate also affects its low immunization rates, the study reported. Jacks said that parents usually fully immunize their first child on time, but lag behind on later children.

States with high infant immunization rates typically have lower birth rates and also have universal coverage, which makes immunizations free.

Although U student health insurance policies do not cover vaccinations, instead focusing primarily on illnesses and injury, the Student Health Center does give out child vaccinations at discounted rates.

“If a student is uninsured, or if their coverage doesn’t cover vaccines, we charge about $6 for a vaccine-much less than other doctors’ offices,” said Kerry Hill, program manager for the U Immunization Program Office.

Other factors that influence Utah’s low immunization rankings are that parents frequently change their health-care providers and do not keep track of immunization dates. They also lack education on vaccine-preventable diseases and Utah exemption policies.

Utah is one of 20 states where parents can exempt their children from immunizations for philosophical reasons.

In a recent study, higher rates of whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, were found in states where parents can receive exemptions for non-medical reasons. There have been recent increases in cases of whooping cough in Utah.

Jacks said if parents do not immunize their children, they also put others at risk.

“There is a percentage of children who cannot be immunized for medical reasons, and their only hope of being protected is that others are immunized,” Jacks said.

The Utah Immunization Program is working to raise vaccination levels for Utah infants and children. It created the Utah Immunization Coalition and keeps annual immunization records in public and at private clinics.

However, on a more positive note, Utah comes in sixth in a nationwide, overall health survey, as compiled by the United Health Foundation.