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Immunization Officials Urge Parents in Las Vegas to Get Their Children Vaccinated

Posted: Apr 24, 2012

LAS VEGAS — Health officials are calling on parents to vaccinate their infants and young children to help prevent the spread of 14 serious and potentially life-threatening diseases in Clark County, where immunization rates for infants and toddlers are some of the lowest of any major U.S. urban area.

"It’s critical for parents to take action and improve our vaccination rates," Dr. Iyabode Akinsanya-Beysolow, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) medical officer, told ethnic media reporters at a recent roundtable discussion. “Vaccination is the best way and most accessible preventable measure against diseases that harm our infants and children.”

The roundtable, held just outside the famous Las Vegas strip, was a collaboration between the CDC, the Southern Nevada Immunization and Health Coalition and Nevada State Health Division. It’s aim was to gather immunization experts to highlight and discuss the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Las Vegas hosts millions of tourists each year – and is home to more than 1 million immigrants – making this city a critical stop for the roundtable.

“Because Las Vegas is an international destination and transient place, and if someone brings in a disease, the child who is not vaccinated is highly vulnerable,” said Erin Seward, program manager for the Nevada State Health Division, Immunization Program.

One in three kids in Nevada is not fully immunized. And although Nevada’s vaccination rate (67 percent) among toddlers between 1 and 3 years old increased in mid-2011, according to the recent findings of the national immunization survey conducted by the CDC, the state's vaccination is still lower than the national average (73 percent)..

That’s why it’s important to educate parents about the importance of vaccination and encourage them to work with their physicians and health providers, health officials said. Community leaders and local providers should also work together to improve the vaccination rate.

Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color in the Las Vegas area have especially low vaccination rates. “When we look at economic and racial demographics, there’s a direct correlation between low vaccination rates and poverty,” said Pam Beal, executive director of the Southern Nevada Immunization and Health Coalition.

But all parents who are uninsured, underinsured or simply can’t afford to pay to vaccinate their kids, are eligible for free vaccines through the Vaccine for Children (VFC) Program.

“If there are parents that are financially struggling to get their kids vaccinated, the Vaccines for Children Program can help them receive their vaccines at no cost,” Seward explained.

The VFC Program is available to eligible children regardless of their legal status, state health officials affirmed.

“Vaccination can help prevent serious childhood diseases, including measles, Hepatitis B, and whooping cough,” CDC officials said.

In recent weeks, Washington State has declared a state-wide epidemic of whooping cough.

“As the current outbreaks show, there is still work to be done; parents need to get their children vaccinated on time,” said Dr. Beverly Neyland, professor of pediatrics at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. “Parents trust their children’s doctor and are one of the best sources of information. We must encourage better communication between parents and health care professional so that parents feel comfortable with any questions they have.”

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