Author: Stacy Hall, Louisiana Department of Health Immunization Program Director
Despite many years of progress, Louisiana’s infant vaccination rates have declined slightly for each of the past three years, and now, over 30 percent of young children in Louisiana are not up-to-date on vaccines that prevent serious diseases.
Before vaccines were available, many children died from diseases, such as whooping cough, measles and polio – diseases that vaccines now prevent. Those same germs exist today, but because babies are protected by vaccines, thankfully we don’t see these diseases nearly as often.
Parents and pediatricians in Louisiana are protecting our children when they go to school, shown by the high kindergarten vaccination rates in the state. However, the lag with the infant vaccine series shows those vaccinations aren’t happening “on-time.”
National Infant Immunization Week is the perfect opportunity to remind new parents, families and communities of the importance of “on time” vaccination following the Louisiana Immunization Schedule.
An important benchmark for very young children is the “7-series,” which are seven vaccines that infants need by the time they reach their second birthday. The Healthy People 2020 goal for the 7-series of infant immunization is 80 percent, yet only 69 percent of babies in Louisiana were up-to-date for this critical benchmark. You can check your parishes’ infant immunization rates on the attached map with data from LINKS, the Louisiana immunization registry.
Unfortunately, there are also differences in vaccination rates by race, ethnicity, poverty and insurance status for very young children. To help bridge this gap, Louisiana participates in the federally funded, Vaccines For Children Program. The VFC program provides vaccines, free of cost, to children 18 years of age and younger that are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid enrolled or eligible, or are an American Indian or Alaska Native.
Last year, Louisiana children received over 1.1 million vaccines through the VFC Program valued at more than $74 million. All Parish Health Units, and over 600 pediatricians, family practice physicians and healthcare providers participate in the Louisiana Vaccines for Children program.
On-time vaccination is an important step to healthy children, so make sure the babies in your life are up-to-date with their immunizations. The Louisiana Department of Health’s Healthy Babies webpage has more information about these diseases, vaccines, vaccine provider locations and resources.