Options for infant immunization

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is advocating for infant and youth immunization, citing that options are available for parents who may not have health care.

The VDH’s Piedmont Health District, which covers Lunenburg, Charlotte, Prince Edward, Amelia, Nottoway, Cumberland and Buckingham counties, recently commemorated National Infant Immunization Week.

The event, according to the VDH, “is an annual observance that highlights the importance of vaccines for infants. The week celebrates the work of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities.”

Dr. H. Robert Nash, director of the Piedmont Health District, said the recommendation for infants is to receive the Hepatitis B vaccine, the Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, (DTaP) vaccine; and the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended a total of three doses of DTaP and two boosters at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years of age.

The CDC recommends two doses of MMR at 12 through 15 months old, and between 4 to 6 years.

The first Hepatitis B vaccine is given at birth, and a second and third dose are recommended between 1-2 months old, and between 6-18 months old.

“It’s very important,” Nash said about immunization.

For infants or children who may have missed immunization at certain ages, there are windows of time to receive what the CDC calls “catch-up vaccinations.”

According to the CDC, approximately 95.5 percent of kindergarteners in Virginia were vaccinated with the MMR vaccine in the 2017-2018 school year.

Nash said that is a favorable percentage.

“There are a couple of states that do better than that, some even approaching 99 percent, but not many,” Nash said.

Nash said the Piedmont Health District said the percentage of infants immunized doesn’t quite reach the same percentage rate seen in the state, with approximately 87-93 percent of infants reported to be vaccinated in the 2017-2018 timeframe.

Nash said while the exact cause of the lower percentage in the Piedmont Health District isn’t known for sure, he estimated that one cause would be the rates of parents and children without health insurance and potential concern from parents about cost as a result.

“That’s really not a factor if they come to the health department,” Nash said.

Nash said each county’s health department has a sliding scale, in which costs can be adjusted depending on the income families have.

For families with insurance, Nash said the department bills the insurance company directly.

“It’s a really good value, both economically and for the health and safety of the children,”