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Regular vaccine uptake drops across county

Health officials fear future outbreaks

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Dialing medicine into syringe from glass bottle. Ampoule and syringe needle close-up. Selective soft focus. Text copy space

People are not getting their regular vaccinations, and the trend is causing concerns for health officials. During the Sept. 13 Howard County Board of Health meeting, Jennifer Sexton, director of nursing for the Howard County Health Department, detailed how the drop in regular vaccination rates in Howard County mirrors what is happening nationwide.

“General immunizations, as far as non-COVID [vaccines], are down,” Sexton said. “They’re down everywhere across the country, which is a problem that is going to persist.”

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Usually schools check students’ vaccination records to ensure they are up-to-date on shots that prevent diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough and tetanus, but Sexton said schools are so busy they just do not have time.

Community Health Network pediatrician Eric O’Banion said the hospital system is not currently seeing outbreaks of any of these diseases, but that does not mean it will not happen in the future if the trend continues. He cited a large measles outbreak that hit Japan in 2019, and said we cannot eradicate diseases if people do not protect themselves.

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Close up of a mother taking her daughter to the pediatrician to get vaccinated

“Part of the issue is, people are afraid because they haven’t done their research,” O’Banion said. “I ask people what their research is, and I never get a good answer. People tend to forget how bad these diseases are because they never see them.”

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Officials from both Community Howard and Ascension St. Vincent in Kokomo said they follow the CDC’s vaccination recommendations for both children and adults. Below is a breakdown of the CDC’s regular vaccinations and the general recommended timeframe to receive them.

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Vaccinations for babies:

• First dose of HepB (Hepatitis B) at birth

• Second dose of HepB between one and two months

• First doses of either RV1 (two-dose vaccine) or RV5 (three dose vaccine) (rotovirus), DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis), Hib (haemophilus influenza type b), PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate), and IPV (inactivated poliovirus) at two months

• Second doses of either RV1 or RV5, DTap, Hib, PCV13, and IPV at four months

• Third doses of RV5 (if any of the previous vaccinations in the series were RV5; RV1 is only a two-dose vaccine), DTap, PCV13, and possibly Hib (ActHIB, Hiberex and Pentacel are four dose vaccines; PedvaxHIB is a three dose vaccine not administered during this timeframe) at six months

• First annual dose of IIV (influenza) at six months (reoccurring yearly)

• Third doses of HepB and IPV between six and 18 months

• First doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and VAR (varicella) at 12 months

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• Third or fourth dose of Hib at 12 months

• Fourth dose of PCV13 between 12 and 15 months

• First dose of HepA (hepatitis A) around 12 months, to be followed with a second dose at least six months after the first dose is administered

Vaccinations for children and teenagers:

• Annual influenza vaccinations

• Second doses of MMR and VAR at 4 to 6 years old

• Fourth dose of IPV at 4 to 6 years old

• Fifth dose of Dtap at 4 to 6 years old

• Single dose of Tdap between 11 and 12 years old

• First dose of HPV (human papillomavirus) between ages 11 and 12, with a second dose between six and 12 months after the first (if children get the first shot after 15 years old, the vaccination is extended to a three-part series)

• First dose of MenACWY (meningococcal) between 11 and 12 years old

• Second dose of MenACWY at 16 years old

Vaccinations for adults:

• Annual influenza vaccinations

• Tdap booster every 10 years unless pregnant (one dose per pregnancy) or as wound management

• Two doses of VAR between 19 and 40 years old if born after 1980

• One to two doses of MMR between 19 and 64 years old if born after 1957

• Two doses of RZV (zoster recombinant, otherwise known as shingles) at age 50

• Single dose of PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide) at age 65