County immunization rates lower than state’s |

County immunization rates lower than state’s

Health care professionals need to change people’s attitudes toward the medical community to solve the problem of low immunization of children in Nevada County, practitioners and officials said this week.

The comments came in the wake of a recent county report reconfirming what the medical community has seen here for many years: The percentage of Nevada County children who receive all their vaccinations continue to remain well below state figures.

The 2008 Nevada County Public Health Status Report shows 74 percent of county children aged 2 to 4 get all their vaccines, compared to 94 percent of children in all of California.

In addition, 76 percent of Nevada County children entering kindergarten are immunized, compared to 92 percent statewide. Among seventh graders, 62 percent of county students have all their required immunizations, in contrast to 79 percent of children across the state.

The percentage of immunized children entering kindergarten and those aged 2 to 4 has dropped between the turn of the century and 2007, according to the report.

“We need to have a system of medical care that people trust,” said Dr. Sarah Woerner, a pediatrician with Sierra Care Physicians in Grass Valley.

“There is a perception that medicine is a business and that there are big corporations benefiting from these immunization programs,” Woerner added. “But people really need to understand the immunization programs exist to keep the public healthy.”

Doctors recommend that parents immunize their children against hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, influenza and haemophilus influenza type B, according to Ann Erdmann, director of the women and infants care unit at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, in Grass Valley.

“We have a certain population in our county who make a conscious decision not to vaccinate their children based on things they’ve read, heard or believe in,” Erdmann said. “Some of that information may be inaccurate, but it’s hard to change people’s minds once it’s made.”

Some parents are worried about the side effects of vaccines, Woerner said.

“Many people still believe that vaccines are linked to autism though it’s been proved multiple times that that’s not true,” Woerner said. “People also say that they feel vaccines weaken the immune system which is exactly opposite of what they do.”

People also tend to be confused about the new vaccines which are now available, Woerner said.

“Some people say there are too many vaccines, ‘I’d rather have my kids get the disease and get immune to it,'” she said. “But very few people have actually seen measles, tetanus and diphtheria.”

Protecting the vulnerable

The group of people most endangered by the lack of immunization are children, Dr. Joseph Iser, director of the county Public Health Department told The Union, earlier this month.

“Children who are exposed to infectious diseases at school will not only infect themselves, they’ll bring those diseases home with them to their families.”

“I’ve taken care of several young children with whooping cough in our area,” Woerner said. The disease recently claimed the life of an infant in Truckee, she said.

“The child was too young to be immunized and most likely contracted the disease from an older person,” Woerner said. “Part of the goals of having universal immunization is to protect babies who are most vulnerable.”

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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