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Utah child immunization rate better than national average

Utah child immunization rate better than national average



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's child immunization rate has finally surpassed the national average.

The state jumped from 41st place in 2005 to 20th in 2006, with 78 percent of toddlers now up to date on six types of vaccines, including polio, chicken pox and measles.

This is the first time Utah has surpassed the average national rate, which was 77 percent last year.

Utah Department of Health Director David Sundwall credited an effort to educate and prod parents.

"It takes ongoing education," he said. "It's not easy. With large families in Utah, it's easy to forget who got what, when."

When it comes to influenza vaccinations, Utah has more work to do. The share of 2-year-olds who were vaccinated moved from 5.7 percent to 24.2 percent from 2003 to 2006.

Sundwall said the number of protected children remains too low.

Utah once was ranked 49th for children receiving the six immunizations. In response, the state developed a database of immunization records and alerted doctors to the $12 million in federal funds Utah gets to pay for vaccines for the uninsured and for those without enough coverage.

The Legislature also doled out $500,000 to help pay for vaccines last year. Gov. Jon Huntsman has not included the additional money in his budget request for next year.

Various vaccines are required to register for school, and Sundwall said just 2 percent of parents seek immunization waivers.

The Southwest Children's Clinic in West Jordan was recently recognized for getting 90 percent of its 2-year-olds immunized on time.

The Parowan Medical Clinic in Iron County has a 75 percent success rate. Lynda Carter, the medical assistant in charge of immunizations, said she checks the state's online immunization registry to see which kids are behind. Then she calls their parents.

"There's so many more (immunizations required) nowadays. (Parents) don't seem to know when or how many they should get or what they should get," Carter said.

In January, Utah County will give incentives such as books to improve immunization rates among families that participate in the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food to low-income residents.

Last year, the Utah County Health Department surveyed 1,500 households and found parents recognize the value of vaccines and know where to get them.

But a minority reported that vaccines were too expensive, their insurance didn't cover them or that they didn't know how to receive free vaccines.

"When you have five children that need to have five shots, (insurance) is also a concern," said Lynn Flinders, Utah County's community health and nursing director.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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