All too often, when we discuss how to improve health care in our state, we focus on the big picture, like building new hospitals or insuring all of our citizens. But, for most children and families it’s the simple things like regular doctor visits and childhood immunizations that make the real difference.
Since taking office I’ve made improving our vaccination rates one of my key priorities. During this time, Louisiana leaped 17 percentage points in national rankings for the number of child immunizations, up 11 spots last year alone.
Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals from developing potentially serious diseases, they also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious agents.
Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases; so it is critical they are protected through immunization. And, children who are not immunized increase the chance that others will get a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine.
It is important to remember vaccinations as we prepare our children to return to school. New clothes or school uniforms; paper, pencils glue and scissors; and a backpack are all back-to-school essentials. So, too, are shots.
That’s why I’m writing this column, and reminding parents that throughout Louisiana, we are making it easy to get these important shots.
This August, all of the required childhood immunizations can be found at parish health units. In fact, some of these clinics provide extended hours or focus exclusively on shots in order to help parents.
Free shots are available for children eligible for the Vaccines for Children program. This includes those who received Medicaid or who are Native Americans. I encourage other children to go to their family doctor for these shots.
This is the fourth year the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals – Office of Public Health is holding its annual immunization effort. In addition to helping parents get their children ready for the upcoming school year, the campaign continues our goal to have every child up-to-date on his or her immunizations.
In past years, we have vaccinated more than 13,000 children during this back-to-school effort. I am confident we will be just as successful this year, and that our children can return to school fully vaccinated and ready to learn.
We can now protect children from more vaccine preventable diseases than ever before. Make your child’s health a priority and take time to see they are fully vaccinated. You can also add use this back-to-school time to seek out health care coverage, as locations throughout your area holding LaCHIP – children’s health insurance – signup events.
Give your child a healthy start to the new school year by making sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations and that they have health care coverage.