Pharmacists can now have detailed childhood immunization data for their state at their fingertips through the help of an interactive map from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Pharmacists “might use it is to look at their own state and ask ‘Where can we be doing a better job?’ Then they can become advocates in their own state," said Sean O'Leary, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The interactive map lists children's immunization rates by state in a number of vaccination categories, including data on the DTaP, MMR, varicella, influenza, and HPV vaccines, and a combined 7-vaccine series. The combined 7-vaccine series includes data for children age 19 to 35 months old who have received: DTaP, Polio, MMR, Hib, hepatitis B, varicella, and PCV.
According to the map (at https://immunizations.aap.org/) those states with the highest immunization rates for the 7-vaccine series include: Washington (77.1%), North Dakota (80.2%), Iowa (77.9%), Connecticut (80.6%), and Massachusetts (78.5%).
O'Leary cautioned, however, that while the map can be valuable tool to identify potential gaps in care or to alert parents or medical professionals to outbreaks or risks in their state any individual state can have variability in their rates from year-to-year.
"A lot of it has to do with the way the various states measure their rates and how accurate those data are," O'Leary said, who also serves as a member of the AAP committee on infectious disease.
Generally, he said those states that only allow medical exemptions and not philosophical or religious exemptions for children entering public school, such as Mississippi and West Virginia, typically have consistently higher vaccination rates than other states.
The two vaccines that have typically seen a lower acceptance rate across the United States have been the HPV vaccine and the influenza vaccine.
For example, according to the map, the rate of boys ages 13 to 17 who received the HPV vaccine in the state of Indiana was just 23.2%.
"The irony is that, in the United States today, those are the two vaccine-preventable diseases that probably cause the most deaths," O'Leary said.
Overall, O'Leary said the childhood vaccination rates generally remain very high for most diseases.
"What we have seen consistently is that the number of parents—the percentage of parents—who refuse all vaccinations remains very low—less than 1%—but what we've also seen is that the proportion of parents who choose to space things out or delay certain vaccines has gone up a little bit," he said.
That's a concern, he said, because when parents start picking and choosing which vaccines their children get, it can put children at risk for developing one of the diseases they are designed to prevent.
"Those so-called alternative schedules haven't been studied for safety and efficacy, whereas the recommended schedule has," O'Leary said.