Vaccination rates of young children in Vigo County for a variety of diseases reached 72 percent in 2019, according to the Vigo County Health Department and state data.

The health department has received immunization grants through the state for the past several years, which have played a major role in boosting child immunizations, said Joni Wise, department administrator. The most recent grant is for $75,407.

Vaccination rates had declined after many doctors in private practice stopped offering them because of low reimbursement rates, she said.

In recent years, the department has been able to do private insurance billing for immunizations, and the grant funds an employee position in the department to do the billing. Wise described that as a “game changer.”

A 2013 assessment of children ages 19 to 35 months indicated that 28 percent had optimal vaccine coverage, which includes vaccinations against such diseases as measles, whooping cough, chicken pox and polio. After implementing strategies outlined in the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 ISDH immunization grant cycles, the rate for the same age group is now 72 percent, Wise stated.

Statewide, the immunization rate was 47 percent in 2013, and most recently, it is 70 percent.

Better reporting of immunizations has been a factor. Immunization data for those 0 to 18 years of age was not required to be entered into a state data base, called Children and Hoosier Immunization Registry Program, until July 2015, said Megan Wade-Taxter of the Indiana State Department of Health.

“Comparing rates for years prior to 2015 to years after 2015 would not provide an accurate comparison,” Wade-Taxter said.

Under the new law, all Indiana medical providers must submit complete vaccination records to CHIRP within seven business days; it covers all vaccines administered to those under age 19 years. Rates are calculated using CHIRP and U.S. Census Bureau population statistics.

Indiana’s immunization rate for completion of seven vaccines for those ages 19 to 35 months is 70 percent. Nearly 64 percent of counties, including Vigo, were at or above the 70 percent rate, according to Dave McCormick, director of the ISDH immunization division.

The state has set goals through Healthy People 2020 that targets reducing vaccine-preventable disease rates and increasing vaccine coverage, McCormick wrote in a letter to the local department. To reach its objectives, it annually reports county immunization rates.

Andrea Craft, Vigo County Health Department nurse, said immunization grant funds also have been used to promote services offered by the local health department through advertisements, billboards, posters and media. An immunization coalition has collaborated to promote awareness on the importance of vaccinations.

In addition, funds were used to purchase medical-grade storage equipment for vaccines.

The county health department works with healthcare providers as well as with schools and pharmacies to make sure patient immunization records are complete and up-to-date, Craft said. The use of CHIRP promotes complete immunization records that can be accessed by registered providers.

The Vigo County Health Department offers childhood and adult immunizations for patients who are insured, uninsured, underinsured, and those that are on Medicaid, Craft said.

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