Be Wise, Immunize

Angie Spooner, RN
Ravalli County Public Health

Be Wise, Immunize
Public health is continually striving to make our beautiful community of Ravalli County as healthy as possible.

Strong healthy communities are obtained through persistent team work from many public health, safety and health care entities. Public health works on a large scale, rather than an individual basis to ensure healthy communities. One of the ways public health achieves a healthy community is through the prevention and mitigation of disease.

Controlling communicable diseases through vaccination is an immensely important element in keeping Ravalli County healthy. Some may remember a time when measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella where considered common childhood illnesses. Many tend to forget that there are individuals in our community that are high risk for infection and could potentially suffer serious complications or die if they come into contact with these "routine" childhood illnesses. Thankfully, we are lucky to live in an advanced scientific era where vaccines prevent roughly 25 diseases. The best way to ensure the highest protection for the entire community is through "herd immunity." This means that if the vast majority of a population is vaccinated, the ones who can't receive vaccines or are at high risk of infection can get some protection against disease. These high risk populations include infants and immunocompromised children or adults.

As of 2014, Ravalli County has a rate of 47% vaccine coverage while Montana overall is 65.6%. Ravalli County has a Pertussis (Whooping Cough) disease rate of 56.6%, compared to 44.6% in Montana. This disease can cause absenteeism at school and sporting events, but the most devastating complication is fatality among young infants.

Furthermore, it is important to stay on schedule with routine immunizations. Children are shown to have more beneficial effects when they stay compliant with the recommended vaccine dosage spacing. Some of these beneficial factors include: less opportunity to catch a disease, decrease the number of pokes, and all around better immune response. It is very common for children to get off schedule with routine vaccinations. If you run into this issue, talk with a healthcare provider to determine the right steps to take.

As a parent, it is normal to feel slightly hesitant to vaccinate your child. Vaccines are one of the safest public health interventions, requiring a multitude of safety parameter tests before licensing for human use. Many myths and misconceptions bombard social media and the news. This may make the decision to vaccinate even more convoluted. Talking with your healthcare provider and educating yourself by utilizing accredited resources are among the best tools to help decrease your uncertainty. Always remember it is recommended by the American Academy of Family Practice and the American Academy of Pediatrics to vaccinate, unless it is advised against by your health care provider.

Parents, let's work together and ensure all children of Ravalli County are healthy and protected against preventable diseases. Call your health care provider or Ravalli County Public Health at 375-6672 to schedule an appointment or to learn more about the benefits of immunizations. Be Wise, Immunize!

Ravalli County Public Health will be offering free back packs to all kindergartners who receive their school shots there.

The community health column is brought to you this month by a partnership between Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and Ravalli County Public Health. For questions, please contact Angie Spooner is an R.N. at Ravalli County Public Health, 205 Bedford St, Suite L, Hamilton, MT. She may be reached at (406) 375-6672, M-F 8 to 5.


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