Alarming Measles Outbreak
It’s hard to believe we’re going backwards in the immunization department. But that’s exactly what’s happening. The recent measles outbreak in Clark County and across the country is evidence that our data is right: children are not always getting their well-child visits which is an important opportunity to ensure they are receiving the immunizations they need to avoid preventable illnesses.
Sadly, this is not news to us at the Alliance, as we know Washington state is lagging behind national benchmarks for children accessing primary care. Our data show that, using NCQA benchmarks, we are below the national 25th percentile for both the commercially-insured and Medicaid populations for well-child visits in the first 15 months and access to primary care for children age 2 to 12. This is especially troubling because those well-child visits can make a huge difference to a young life—the difference between starting off with available resources to identify and treat when there are medical issues, but more importantly, the potential to prevent them entirely.
As you may recall, we introduced a new measure in our Community Checkup in 2017 focused on well-child visits in the first 15 months of life. In 2017, we reported that only 69% of commercially-insured and 43% of Medicaid insured children received the recommended 6 or more well-child visits before they reached their 15-month birthday. In 2018’s Community Checkup, we reported a slight uptick in those numbers; 72% of commercially-insured and 44% Medicaid insured children under 15 months-old received their recommended well-child visits. And, in 2018, we found that 60% of children by the age of 2 and 70% of adolescents by age 13 had not received the recommended, evidence-based vaccines.
Here’s how that plays out; Clark County Public Health is reporting that of the 53 reported and suspected cases of measles, 51 are children under age 18 and 47 were not immunized. The CDC estimates that between 1994 and 2013, vaccinations alone prevented an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths at a net savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $138 in total societal costs. So what is keeping us from improving our rate of vaccinations? They can’t make appointment times when they’re working? Is transportation a problem? Is it because new parents aren’t aware or simply don’t believe in them? It’s time to stop hand wringing and work on some solutions.
Clark County Public Health reports that the majority of lab results for confirmed measles cases show this strain originated in Israel and Eastern Europe, specifically Ukraine. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health is reporting that there have been more than 15,000 measles cases and 7 deaths reported in Ukraine between December 28, 2018 and February 1, 2019. Why so many? Ukraine’s Acting Minister of Health says the opposition to vaccines is compounded by a lack of political commitment to vaccinate, war, and a decade of corruption.
Here in the US, a new three-year CDC project is trying to improve immunization rates for children and pregnant women on Medicaid in Colorado, Montana, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Kentucky. The $880,000 in federal funding will help the National Academy of State Health Policy assist states in improving the coordination of their vaccination information. It is hoped that the project will identify policies and data analysis that will help immunization registries and improve immunization rates across the country. An additional benefit of better tracking is more accurate projections on vaccine needs to ensure states are well-supplied and don’t run out.
At the Alliance recently, we celebrated a homegrown effort to improve vaccination rates recognized by KOMO News. Senior Health Data Analyst Yuriy Stasyuk is helping members of the Russian-speaking community become better informed about the risks associated with avoiding vaccinations. Yuriy immigrated from the Ukraine when he was 7 years-old and says it’s common for some parents in the Russian community to refuse vaccines, but he’s spreading the word that parents should follow his lead for his 6 month-son Ares and immunize, “I want him to live a long and healthy life.”
We thank you for your efforts to help all children in Washington state have the same thing.
Published: February 20, 2019