A new study released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that Iowa teens are being vaccinated at a higher percentage compared to many states around the Midwest and the country.
According to the report, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska registered lower immunization rates than Iowa.
But that is not something new to Story County, which has one of the highest immunization rates at 98 percent, according to Treasa Ferrari, a registered nurse at Mary Greeley Medical Center.
And to many in the health care profession the increase of immunizations all starts with an individual’s health care provider.
“First of all, the health care providers give strong recommendations and really educate the parents of their patients,” said Don Callaghan, Bureau Chief at Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). “They then go and make those informed decisions about vaccinating their children.”
A new law that was passed prior to the 2017-18 school year in Iowa required all seventh-graders and 12th-graders to receive a meningococcal vaccine (meng), which fights meningococcal disease, meningitis and sepsis. Seventh graders already had to receive a Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough) (TDP).
Story County’s meng vaccination rate increased 5.2 percent since the new law passed. It increased 7 percent statewide, according to an adolescence report by the IDPH that included children age 13 to 15.
According to the CDC study, in 2018, the TDP vaccination rate for teens in Iowa was 94 percent compared to national average of 88.9 percent.
For all residents in Story County the rate for TDP was 84.3 percent, which was much higher than the 64.9 percent recorded in 2011, according to the IDPH report.
“When data has been look at, the best way to get your community immunized is to make it a requirement for school,” said Dr. John Paschen, a pediatrician at McFarland Clinic.
Despite the high vaccination rates in Iowa, Callaghan said each year is a new battle.
“One thing about those rates is you’re constantly starting over, so just because you achieved an immunization rate for an age group, you still have a new age group coming in,” he said. “It’s like you’re starting over with a new group of kids every year and make sure they’re fully vaccinated.”
So many times the data will fluctuate from year to year, depending on how many exemptions there are in a certain age group.
Currently in Iowa, there are only two types of exemptions allowed: medical and religious.
The medical exemptions is for anyone who is allergic to one of the components in a vaccine, and anyone with an immune deficiency such as a cancer patient, Paschen said.
In regard of determining how a religious exemption works there really is no regulations, said Sherry Zook, a registered nurse at Mary Greeley Medical Center. She added that the religious exemption continues to be a big debate within the medical field.
Although Story County and Iowa’s rates are higher than most places, Ferrari said the ultimate goal is to reach a 100 percent immunization rate.
“I’ve always felt that vaccines are the single most important thing in my practice,” Paschen said.
That sentiment is shared by many who believe vaccinations are a key component to keep children and adults safe from harmful diseases.
“Hats off to the Iowa health providers who are on the front lines, and who are seeing these patients, and making sure our kids are staying healthy,” said Bethany Kintigh, the immunization program manager for the Iowa Department of Public Health.