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Oklahoma dramatically improves in vaccination rankings

Lawton_The latest report from a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Oklahoma has healthy kids.  The survey ranks Oklahoma 15th among the states in the percentage of children in the 19-35 month age group who have had all of the recommended vaccinations - the highest ranking ever for Oklahoma.  The study also found that more than 78% of all Oklahoma children have had their shots, compared to the national average of just over 77%.

Oklahoma's rate of vaccinating children over the last four years has jumped from the rank of 48 - one of the worst - to 15th - one of the best.  Comanche County Memorial Hospital Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Jacque Gillespie says the jump is because doctors are becoming more proactive about keeping Oklahoma's children healthy. 

Vaccines can be lifesaving.  "I think, in my opinion, the biggest issue with vaccines is they're successful," said Gillespie.  "Before we started giving the measles, mumps, and ruebella vaccine, there were over 7,000 cases of measles a year."  More than 5,000 unvaccinated children died each year prior to mandatory immunizations.  That is no longer the case, but may not be as good as it seems.  "Last year, there were - I think - 46 cases (of death) in a year," said Gillespie.  "So the success of that vaccine has created a group of people who are complacent about vaccines because they don't remember these diseases."

She says it's surprising that Oklahoma has been ranked as one of the best states in immunizations.  Gillespie says Oklahoma is one of the few states that gives parents the option to forego immunization if they choose otherwise.  Gillespie says that because of this allowance, Oklahoma was beginning to see an alarming increase in vaccine preventable disease.  "We are at the point - in some states - where we can no longer rely on the 'herd immunity'...we can't rely on the fact that most of the children are vaccinated," she said.   "There are now pockets of children that are under-vaccinated, and we are starting to see vaccine-preventable diseases rear their ugly heads again."

Doctors have begun stepping in and educating parents on the importance of regular immunizations.  Gillespie says it's why Oklahoma has seen such a dramatic jump in the state's ranking as one of the best for vaccinating children.  "The medical community has rallied around immunizations," she said.  "We talk to our patients everyday about it - how safe [vaccinations] they are.  I address this issue all the time with my parents.  I feel very comfortable with the vaccines, I gave them to my own child so I certainly recommend them to my patients."

Oklahoma has a high percentage of low-income families who qualify for a federal program to receive free vaccinations, so those who are hit hardest by troubled economic times don't have to sacrifice their children's regular immunizations.  Doctors recommend that everyone over the age of six months get their flu shots.  Clinics will open in mid-October, and you can count on 7News to tell you when they do.

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