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Health Check Kids: Childhood vaccination rates in RI

Overall, childhood vaccination rates in Rhode Island are high, according to a new report called The Health of America. (WJAR)

Overall, childhood vaccination rates in Rhode Island are high, according to a new report called The Health of America. It was funded by The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

"The partnership between the Department of Health, the primary care pediatric offices and the insurance companies, has really made vaccines available to all families," said Dr. Elizabeth Lange, who is a pediatrician at Waterman Pediatrics and an active member of the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Recommended vaccines are mostly free of charge to parents. As a result, 93 percent of children in Rhode Island -- the highest in the nation -- are getting their series of tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (T-Dap) vaccines.

"As a practicing pediatrician, I'm not at all surprised by our high vaccine rates," said Lange. "We're number one in the nation for flu vaccines for young children.”

"One of the ones we're most proud of is human papilloma virus in teenagers," said Dr. Katherine Dallow, who is the vice president of clinical affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

The HPV vaccine can help prevent cervical cancer. Before it became part of the Rhode Island school immunization requirements in 2015, Dallow said only about one in five kids got this multi-dose vaccine.

"And our rates within two to three years have spiked up to probably the 70 percent range, for at least the initial shot,” said Dallow.

And the number of shots in the HPV vaccine series has changed, as well.

"In the last year, the CDC has changed that schedule so children who initiate the series before age of 15, only need two doses separated by six months, as opposed to the children who are older than 15 who need three doses across the six months,” said Lange. "And the reason why that change was made is that younger children's immune systems picks up this vaccine much more readily and have a robust response to it."

As for any pushback on childhood immunizations, Lange said she doesn’t find a lot of pushback.

“It certainly invokes conversations,” she said. “Parents should always have questions about vaccine of all types. But we do know that vaccines are very safe. They are the only way that we can protect our children and keep them healthy.”

Click here to learn more about adolescent vaccines.

Click here to learn more about early childhood vaccines.

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