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Health Department hopes carnival improves immunization numbers
new deh county immunization carnival pic
In an effort to help bolster immunizations in Barton County, the Health Department is holding the Step Right Up Immunization Carnival July 27. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

If you want to attend

The Barton County Health Department’s Step Right Up Immunization Carnival will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, July 30, a the BCHD office, 1300 Kansas. For more information, call the department at 620-793-1902.

School immunization requirements:

• Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis: Five doses of vaccine by  kindergarten

• Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster (TDaP): At age 11-12

• Polio: Four doses of vaccine

•MMR: Two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine

•Varicella:  Two doses of vaccine to prevent chickenpox.

•Hepatitis B: Three doses of vaccine.

•Hepatitis A: Two doses required for children less than 5 years of age in early childhood programs.

• Influenza recommendation from CDC: Children between 6 months of age and 18 years should receive the annual influenza vaccine to prevent influenza and its complications, unless contraindicated.

 * A tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster is necessary on entrance to high school, depending on when the last dose was received.

Kansas children are required to be fully immunized to enter or attend school.

 Nationwide, there is a decrease in immunization rates, a trend that is echoed in Kansas and Barton County, Health Director Shelly Schneider told the County Commission Monday morning.

“We are looking at ways to increase immunizations in Barton County,” she said. After a lot of brainstorming, their solution was the Step Right Up Immunization Carnival. 

As a means of improving community involvement, the department is holding this event from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, July 30, a the BCHD office, 1300 Kansas. 

“The idea is to make going back to school and getting the dreaded immunizations more fun,” she said. Admittedly, linking the words school, shots and fun together in the same sentence may be a stretch, but that is the plan.

Health Department personnel will be dressed in costumes, and there will be games, popcorn and a prize drawing (one shot – one ticket, three shots – three tickets). 

“We’re hoping to have a real good turnout,” Schneider said. “It will be all hands on deck.”

All kidding aside, this is a serious topic, she said. The United States is currently experiencing a decrease in immunization rates, the impact of this being felt recently by the pertussis outbreak. 

Nationwide, 91.9 percent of 19- to 35-month-olds have had their MMR (for measles, mumps and rubella) shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Immunization Survey released earlier this year. That’s actually up from 2000, when 90.5 percent had been immunized, but it is down from 2006, when the figure was 92.3 percent.

In Kansas, the percentage was 92.7 in 2006 and fell to 89.4 in 2013, the CDC reported.

In 2014, there were more than 640 measles cases, the largest number recorded since measles was documented as being eliminated in 2000. And there were a further 102 cases in January of this year, tied to an outbreak at Disneyland in California.

In our own backyard, “Barton County not at the top of the totem pole either,” Schneider said. Kansas falls below the national average and Barton County falls below the state average.

Over all, 81 percent of children a up to age 2 are vaccinated. However,  bottom half of the state, 81 percent up to age 2. However, only 20 percent of those ages 11-18 are up to date.

“It’s so frustrating,” she said. “We work so hard here.”

But, its not just Barton County. There is a downward trend statewide and nationwide.

Sadly, Schneider many parents either forget to have children vaccinated or are reluctant to do so due to unfounded fears the shots can cause autism or other ailments.

However, “study after study” has shown no link. “This has been debunked over and over again, she said.

Besides, Kansas children are required to be fully immunized to enter or attend school.

“I feel strongly that immunizations are safe and they are important,” she said, adding they are needed to protect young children and the elderly who are more susceptible to disease. “We can’t rely on herd immunity.”

The immunizations are covered by just about all insurance plans, she said. The uninsured can pay on a sliding scale based on income.

Schneider doesn’t want the cost to scare people away. “We will work with you.”

Immunizations are routinely administered to those through age 18 on a walk-in basis during regular business hours Monday through Friday.

For more information, call the department at 620-793-1902.