Donors Improve Immunization Rates
Each week, the news brings us stories of vaccine preventable diseases gaining a foothold across the nation. In Washington state, increasing numbers of parents have chosen to not fully immunize their children. Not surprisingly, we've seen a corresponding increase in the number of outbreaks of measles, influenza, and most recently, whooping cough.
ALSO SEE: Childhood Immunization Initiative
With donor support, the Foundation decided to tackle Washington's low immunization rates, fighting the battle on a number of fronts.
Improving access to immunizations. In partnership with the Washington Department of Health and health departments in King, Pierce, and Spokane counties, nearly 17,000 children received vaccinations in the last three years, increasing the immunization rates in 90 percent of the school districts we support. Following a recent whooping cough outbreak, we responded to an urgent request from the Snohomish Health District and immunized more than 400 community members.
Equipping providers with the tools. Many parents expect their doctor to address the latest anti-vaccination claims making the rounds on the internet. Beginning in 2011, the Foundation embarked upon a scientifically rigorous, randomized controlled trial to develop, test and implement a course of training and set of tools to help health care providers address parents' concerns around immunization.
Harnessing the power of parental peer pressure. A new social marketing campaign to address the growing problem of vaccine hesitancy is currently underway, training parents to serve as "informed peers" in schools, day cares, and other places where children and parents gather. This aspect of the campaign seeks to activate parents and support them as they build visibility for the importance of immunization and create an environment where other parents see that up-to-date immunizations are the norm, contrary to what they might hear on the news or read on the internet.
"We can take on large issues like vaccine hesitancy because we don't try to do it all alone," says Laura Rehrmann, Foundation president. "Partnering with the Group Health Research Institute, state and county health departments, and other nonprofit organizations enables us to dream big. And of course our donors are significant partners as well, inspiring us to make the biggest impact that we can."
Baby Caroline contracted whooping cough at 3 weeks old. Read her story.
How Safe Are We?
Immunization Work Leads to Award