Oklahoma health officials trying to raise toddler vaccination rate

Wednesday, August 20th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma's ranking as one of 10 states in which the rate of on-time vaccinations for toddlers is below 70% is something health officials want to change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported July 31 that Oklahoma's rate was 65.3% for 19- to 35-month-olds.

The agency is encouraging states below the 70% threshold to identify communities where vaccination rates are significantly below the national average, then eliminate the disparities.

With that directive, the state Health Department is analyzing data on about 10,000 Oklahoma children to find out who is most likely to fall behind on key childhood vaccinations.

Nationally, data suggest that Hispanic and black children have lower on-time immunization rates than white children, according to a study reported in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

``It's important for us to confirm that for Oklahoma,'' said Don Blose, chief of immunization services for the state Health Department.

Blose said the information will be used to target immunization programs to the neediest populations.

Kimberly Wiles, immunization field consultant with the Wagoner County Health Department, said her research made her sometimes feel more like an investigator than a public health worker.

``The first thing we did was look them up in our system,'' she said.

If a child had an immunization record with the county but was behind on shots, the next step was to send the parents a letter asking for current immunization records or permission to get those records from a doctor, Wiles said.

Raw data has come in from 21 of the 24 counties in the survey, which began almost a year ago, Blose said.

For the survey, Health Department field consultants in each of the 24 counties were given 600 randomly selected birth records for children who are now 2- and 3-years-old. The birth records were cross-checked against each child's immunization records.

Once data from all 24 counties are analyzed, the information will be released first to county health workers and other health care providers, and then to the public, Blose said.

The study is limited to 24 counties that have field representatives. But, Blose said, it is a start.

``To me, that's just wonderful because that's 24 that we didn't have baseline data for before. The local people don't know if immunization rates are a problem because we've never had the data.

Blose hopes to extend the survey to more counties this year, continuing the process until data is available for all 77 counties.