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KCUR: How Kansas Hopes To Boost Low Vaccine Rates To Protect Kids Against Meningitis And More

By Celia Llopis-Jensen


Thousands of Kansas children and teens go without vaccines that could save their lives.

A series of policy changes, though, could protect more Kansans against everything from cervical cancer to swift-acting meningococcal disease.

(1) The meningococcal vaccine may soon join the list of immunizations required to attend school in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is going through regulatory steps for that potential change, which could take effect as early as the 2019-20 school year.

(2) Starting in July 2020, vaccination reports will all feed into a statewide database that clues physicians to patient needs. Today, not all providers use it. Eventually, if a parent takes her teen son to a new doctor within state lines, that doctor will have a reliable record. 

(3) Kansas pharmacists can give children the flu shot as early as age six. As of 2017, however, they can also administer other recommended vaccines to kids as young as 12.

Since kids at that age generally don’t visit their doctors as often as when they are very young, public health experts hope families may at least drop by a local pharmacy to get vaccines and that that will gradually boost the state’s teen immunization rates.

Federal data on the subject are far from perfect. But compared to other states, Kansas seems to have particularly low vaccine rates against meningococcal disease and against cancers caused by the nearly ubiquitous Human Papilloma Virus.

As for seven vaccines recommended for toddlers, including measles, Kansas hovers around the national average.

“It is dismal,” said Barbara Pahud, a Children’s Mercy pediatrician. “And it is sad.”

Low vaccination rates erode the herd immunity that protects people who can’t be inoculated because they are too young or have weakened immune systems.

Pahud, a professor affiliated with with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas, says a small percentage of parents oppose all vaccines for religious or other reasons.


Read the full story via KCUR

Learn more about the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy