MIAMI COUNTY — Ohio’s new preschool vaccine law seeks to get children in daycare and preschool vaccinated against illnesses such as measles and whooping cough, before kindergarten.
The most-recent data available show that in 2013, less than 62 percent of Ohio children 19 to 35 months old had all the vaccines recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More Ohio toddlers — 86 percent — had the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella than any other vaccine. The lowest coverage was for hepatitis A; fewer than half of the children had that vaccine.
The only states with worse coverage were Arkansas and Nevada. The national average was more than 70 percent.
Before passage of the requirement, Ohio was the only state without a vaccine-coverage law for children in day care or preschool. But before the law, most providers required proof of vaccination history under rules made by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The new law for children who go to day care or preschool has the potential to increase vaccine coverage among those kids even earlier, keeping them from spreading illnesses to one another and to family members, including vulnerable infant siblings and the elderly.
Similar to the school-age vaccine requirement, parents have a way to opt out if they object to vaccines, if their child has an allergy or other medical reason to forgo the shot.
Tammy Taylor, apediatrician with Upper Valley Family Care, said the majority of vaccines are given to children as infants, which is then followed by the Kindergarten shots that are typically given when the child is six. However, Taylor said she and the pediatricians prefer to give the child kindergarten shots at age four, and then give the seventh-grade shots at age 11.
“It’s usually easier (vaccinations) on the kid when they’re younger,” she said. “They aren’t as nervous about them at four as they are at six or not as worried about them at 11 as they are at 13. Most of the kids go to preschool so there’s a lot of exposure to other kids.”
She explained the parents who opt out of vaccines typically fear vaccines having a link to autism. However, the study that purported to have found the vaccine-autism link had falsified information and has since been disproven.
“Parents are still concerned about Thimerosal in vaccines, although what they don’t realize is that we’ve had that in vaccines for years and years and years,” Taylor said. “The amounts in vaccines are small, and what they don’t realize is that babies who are breast fed get more Thimerosal in milk than in all shots combined. If there was an association of Thimerosal causing autism, we’d see more autism in breast babies and we don’t.”
Taylor also said the local reactions to vaccines, which can include fever or swelling around the site of the injection, are often confused with allergic reactions, and that most children do not actually have allergies to vaccines.
“Most of the time when parents say they had an allergic reaction that is what they’re meaning,” she said.
Overall, Taylor’s recommendation was that children needed to get vaccinated closer to preschool age, and pediatricians need to take on a more proactive role to educate parents and society on the benefits of vaccines.
“There’s a lot of media attention and you can go everyday on Facebook and see these scary horror stories about vaccines and all the harm they can cause,” she said. “I don’t think that our government or even the American Academy of Pediatrics does a very good job at counteracting those arguments. Overall, I think we can do a better job about educating over the diseases and why we can do a better job of preventing them with vaccines.”
Reach Allison C. Gallagher at [email protected] or on Twitter @Troydailynews.