By Edie Jeffers
TACOMA — Vaccination rates for Pierce County school children are improving, according to state-wide school immunization data Washington State Department of Health released May 30.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has been hard at work to drive immunization rates up among children in Pierce County.
“Through efforts such as promoting immunization campaigns within schools and educating parents, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has worked with county schools to improve vaccine coverage rates among children,” said Nigel Turner, director of the department’s Communicable Disease Control division.
Based on 2012-13 data from the school districts the percentage of kindergarten students that have all their shots increased slightly to 89.6 percent, which is 4 percent higher than the state as a whole. “The percentage of kindergarteners getting exemptions from important immunizations continues to decrease for the 2013-2014 school year in Pierce County” says Nigel Turner, director of the department’s Communicable Disease Control division.
Also contributing to higher immunization rates are changes to school and child care immunization exemptions that became law in May of 2011 and requires a licensed health care provider to sign the certificate of exemption for a parent or guardian to exempt their child from school and child care immunization. Tacoma-Pierce Health Department was active in supporting efforts at the state level to change immunization exemption laws.
The Pierce County kindergarten exemption rate was 4.7 percent during the 2010-11 school year. Now, the rate has dropped to 3.4 percent for the 2012-13 school year.
Other programs, such as the free mobile vaccine clinics that the health department provides in partnership with MultiCare Health System and Franciscan Health System, also support increased vaccination rates.