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No measles here
New Hampshire outperforms national vaccination average

02/19/15



Between free vaccinations, school vaccination requirements and a lack of philosophical exemptions regarding those requirements, New Hampshire is getting its kids vaccinated and, thus far, avoiding the measles outbreak that started in California and has spread to several other states.

Marcela Bobinsky, bureau chief of Public Health Systems Policy and Performance for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said the state makes a concerted effort to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
There are vaccination requirements for school entry and childcare entry, she said. According to data provided by DHHS, the state’s vaccination rate for the 2013-2014 year was 97.3 percent. With 200,037 enrolled students in public and private schools, 194,713 were up to date on vaccinations.
Part of the reason New Hampshire’s rates are so high is that it doesn’t allow for philosophical exemptions (20 of the 50 states do). All states have medical exemptions and most have religious exemptions, but the philosophical exemptions mean anyone who has moral or personal objections of any kind to vaccinations can be exempt. Bobinsky pointed to Washington, which had a philosophical exemption and saw its rates of unvaccinated children go as high as 7 percent. Bobinsky said Washington also had a wide pertussis epidemic.
In medical cases, a child might be exempt if they had a bad reaction to the first dose in a vaccination series, or if they have leukemia or another disease that would not allow them to be vaccinated. In those cases, a doctor would have to sign off that a child is exempt, Bobinsky said. In the case of religious exemption, a parent must sign a notarized form, according to the DHHS website.
Vaccinations include four doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, three hepatitis B shots, chicken pox, haemophilus influenzae HIB and pneumococcal — the four doses of pneumonia.
“[Our rates have] stacked up very, very well for years. We’ve been in top 5 for the vaccination complete series for children 19 to 35 months in age,” Bobinsky said. “Our regulations are similar to many states.”
Even with medical and religious exemptions, New Hampshire meets the 2020 Healthy Communities national goal, Bobinksy said, which is a 90-percent rate for certain vaccines. The goal is to create a concept called Herd Immunity.
“If one person has that disease, if so many people have that vaccine in your community, it will not spread. It will not expand into a big outbreak,” Bobinsky said. 
Also helping keep vaccination rates up is that New Hampshire has universal vaccination coverage, which means every child in the state has the opportunity to be vaccinated at no cost to the parent or the health care provider, Bobinsky said. 
Bobinsky couldn’t say whether certain areas of New Hampshire are less protected than others because the state does not have an immunization registry, but overall, the numbers are good.
“We’re very proud of the parents who are getting their children vaccinated, and we are thrilled we have such good medical advisors who care about their kids getting vaccinated,” she said.
Students who participate in sports are required to have a physical, but since they are already enrolled in school they should be up to date on vaccinations, though the medical or religious exemptions hold true for sports as well. It’s particularly important for those participating in sports to be vaccinated, Bobinsky said, because they are in physical contact with others.
 
What about adults?
Bobinsky said beyond school-age children, anyone working or spending time with children, especially those under 6 months of age, should be vaccinated. 
“It’s recommended that certain people have certain vaccines when they work with young children, especially. It also extends to grandparents of young children,” she said.
DHHS follows the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which recommends that adults get influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis if they are going to be around a child who is 6 months old or younger, Bobinsky said. This is known as “cocooning” young children who won’t get their first diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis shots until they’re about two months old, Bobinsky said.
 
As seen in the February 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo. 





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