KCUR: Vaccine Opposition Isn't Why Many Thousands Of Kansans Miss Out On Shots
By Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado.
The national measles outbreak — numbering more than 1,000 cases so far — hasn't hit Kansas yet, but it has crept awfully close to home.
State health officials think a case in Kansas looks nearly inevitable. And the state’s annual survey of kindergartener vaccination rates suggests some counties do better than others at getting little kids their potentially life-saving shots of MMR vaccine.
Why so many under-vaccinated people?
As best as public health experts can tell, religious objections and the anti-vaccination movement account for just a tiny sliver of the myriad reasons.
More commonly, the obstacles involve busy work lives, rural distances, poverty, spotty vaccine records, health providers with gaps in vaccine stock or limited walk-in hours, and the public’s lack of knowledge about things like adult vaccine schedules.
Changing the mind of someone truly opposed to vaccines can seem daunting, even amid outbreaks of illnesses such as measles. This despite the risks of foregoing shots: hospitalization, brain damage, deafness or even death. A 105-degree fever is common with measles.
“They cannot be swayed,” pediatrician Barbara Pahud said. “Focus on this ginormous group in the middle …. They’re already on board for some vaccines, so there is hope if you want to see it that way.”
That “ginormous” middle group of under- or unvaccinated people greatly outnumbers those who reject all vaccines based on religion or other beliefs. Researchers peg the latter group at just 1 to 3 percent of the population, said Pahud, a specialist in infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and an associate professor at the University of Kansas and University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Getting a handle on the problem is tough in part because of gaping holes in what we know about who does and doesn’t get vaccines.
A few other efforts going on to boost vaccine rates in Kansas:
- Starting this fall, Kansas plans to phase in two more vaccine requirements (hepatitis A and meningococcal ACWY) for school attendance. Inoculation rates for both would likely increase, though the hep A rates were already fairly strong because they’re required for day care in Kansas. On Thursday, parents opposed to vaccinations protested the state’s plans at a public hearing.
- The state recently hired an epidemiologist to dig into vaccine rates across the state, is chasing grants to support the effort, and working closely with individual health providers on a regular basis to improve their practices.
- Lawmakers also recently expanded vaccine access by letting pharmacists give more shots. That may particularly benefit teenagers who no longer visit their pediatricians as often, but who still lack a number of vaccines.
Read the full story via KCUR
Learn more about Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy