HELENA – This is National Infant Immunization Week, and Montana health officials are recommending that parents make sure their children’s vaccines are up to date.
According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Montana is behind the nation in making sure children are up to date with all of their vaccinations.
“If you look at Montana in comparison to the rest of the country, for making sure our infants are up-to-date on time with everything, we actually kind of fall short,” said Bekki Wehner, Montana Immunization Program Manager.
“We generally see about two-thirds being up-to-date on time and the nation average is around 70-72%.”
According to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control, around 20% of Montana children have not received all their diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP) shots by the time they go to school.
Wehner said most kids are receiving their vaccinations in the state though; they just tend to get the shots a little late.
“Our [measles, mumps and rubella vaccine] rates are actually fairly high, around 92 percent,” added Wehner.
A percentage of the population isn’t able to be vaccinated due to medical conditions or other reasons.
The best way to protect those individuals is to have people who can be vaccinated be up to date on theirs.
Officials say if parents have questions or concerns, the child’s primary care provider is always the best person to speak with.
“Vaccinations are recommended at a certain time for a certain reason,” said Wehner, “Especially because when we look at infants, for example, that’s a time when they’re the most vulnerable and they’re the most likely to catch more severe disease.”
If parents are worried that they will not be able to afford their child’s vaccinations, they should speak to their care provider about the Vaccines for Children Program.
For qualified individuals, the program provides vaccines for immunizing eligible children at no cost for the vaccine.
-John Riley reporting for MTN News