August 17, 2012

News Release

For Immediate Release

Immunization Numbers Reveal Child Protection Levels

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department helped ensure the health of hundreds of area children before their first day of school this week.

From Aug. 1 through Aug. 17, the department immunized more than 750 people during walk-in clinics at its Westside Public Health Center. The department used community volunteers, extra clerical staff and a staff of eight public health nurses to serve a large number of patients in a short amount of time before the first bells rang this week. Though most of those were from Greene County, the clinic served many children from surrounding counties as well.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department's immunization program serves the public year round, and has a solid track record of protecting the community as a whole by vaccinating individuals. Earlier this year, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services audited local public health departments statewide to determine immunization rates for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. VFC is a state program that is funded by federal dollars and administered by local public health agencies. This program provides free vaccinations for children younger than 18 years of age who are in families that quality for Medicaid. The shots provided through the VFC program protect against 11 common and potentially severe – even deadly – diseases.

The recent statewide audit focused on VFC immunization rates for children younger than 2 years of age. Greene County's VFC immunization rate for this group was 97 percent – the highest in the state. Only two other counties were in the 90th percentile: Putnam County in north central Missouri and Lafayette County in western Missouri.

"The VFC program targets a high-risk population that otherwise may not have access to the protection vaccines provide," said Pam Bryant, Administrator of Maternal & Child Health Programs at the health department. "But getting the vaccines to people is the other half of the equation. The immunization rates are a measure not only of how well we take care of the public's health, but also of how well we take care of the public's dollars. We have a very effective program."

Although the VFC program and back-to-school walk-in clinics are two separate efforts, the numbers tell the story of a common purpose. The first two years of life and the two years before children begin school full-time (ages 4-6) are key windows for immunization. If a child is up-to-date on his or her shots by the time they enter school, they have the best possible protection from a variety of diseases up through their adolescent years, when some booster shots are again needed.

For more information, contact: Pam Bryant, Springfield-Greene County Health Department Maternal & Child Health Administrator, (417) 864-1431.

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Harold K. Bengsch Building

227 E. Chestnut Expwy. • Springfield, MO 65802
417-864-1658 • health.springfieldmo.gov