Colorado finds itself inline, for the most part, with the nation in most categories for childhood immunization. These facts come to light as the state and country concluded National Infant Immunization Week, April 14-20.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado ranked ahead of the national average in two of 11 categories for preschool vaccination coverage, the same in two categories as well and lagging behind in seven categories.
However, in the lagging categories, Colorado only trails by 1 percentage point in six of those, which include Hepatitis B, measles-mumps-rubella and polio. The statistics cover ages 19 to 35 months for the 2000-2001 year.
National Infant Immunization Week began in 1994 as declared by President Bill Clinton to focus attention on the importance of proper immunization for infants and toddlers.
Communities across the country use this week to increase awareness of and access to immunization services.
Some of the awareness methods include expanding clinic hours, distributing information at supermarkets and other public places, canvassing neighborhoods, holding immunization fairs and creating new partnerships with businesses and community groups.
The CDC reports more than 500 events are held across the United States annually to raise awareness.
"Vaccines are one of the most successful tools we have available today to prevent disease and death, reducing the level of most vaccine-preventable diseases by more than 99 percent, said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
"Before widespread immunization in this country, infectious disease killed or disabled thousands of children each year. Today, more than 90 percent of children in America have received the most critical doses of recommended vaccines by age two and most U.S. doctors have never treated diseases like polio, rubella or Hib meningitis.
"But too many children are still vulnerable to preventable diseases, increasing the risk of outbreaks among at-risk individuals in their surrounding community. More than 900,000 children have not been properly immunized, and 11,000 children are born each day who must be protected."
The CDC also launched a national Spanish-language media campaign to inform Hispanic parents of the importance of immunization and increase immunization rates among Hispanic children, who have historically had lower rates of immunization, Thompson said.
Health agencies say 70 percent of children’s vaccinations are needed in their first two years of life to protect them from diseases, disabilities and death.
Officials point out that vaccines not only prevent a vaccinated individual from developing a potentially serious disease, but they also help protect the entire community by reducing the spread of infectious agents. And, they say, vaccines save money. For every dollar spent on MMR shots, about $13 is generated in savings.
"In addition, [President George W. Bush’s] proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 provides $824 million for CDC’s Vaccine for Children Program and $631 million for other immunization activities," Thompson said.
There are 10 serious diseases listed causing disability and death, which are preventable through immunization. The list includes diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), haemophilus influenza type b (hib), Hepatitis B and varicella.
But, as efforts are raised to help immunize infants, another segment of society is also in need of vaccine awareness. Progress has been made over the last few years, but officials are still concerned about the number of persons over the age of 65 vaccinated against serious diseases, mainly influenza and pneumonia.
The CDC estimates more than 18,000 deaths and 48,000 hospitalizations occur annually due to influenza and pneumonia.
A national health objective was set to vaccinate at least 60 percent of elderly U.S. citizens by the year 2000, which was met, according to CDC statistics. Now that goal has been raised to 90 percent by 2010.
But some obstacles will have to be overcome to meet the new goal.
Officials must address the fact that persons over the age of 75 were more likely to report a vaccination that person aged 65 to 74. Vaccination levels were lower among person with less than a high school education.
And that pneumonia vaccination coverage lagged behind influenza coverage and was below 60 percent among persons most likely to visit a health care provider.
Officials admit the numbers are based on self-reporting, but feel the figures are pretty close to the mark.
Among state comparisons, Colorado fares exceptionally well against the rest of the country.
According to CDC figures for 1999, Colorado ranks third behind Rhode Island and Utah for influenza vaccinations, with 74.8 percent covered. The national median average was 67.4 percent.
While pneumonia shots lag behind influenza, it made the greatest strides between 1997 and 1999. Colorado increased its coverage by 9.4 percent over the two-year period.
The state ranks second in the country, behind Delaware, having 62.7 percent of the elderly vaccinated. The national median average is 54.9 percent.