© 2022
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

NYS County Health Officials: 'Don't wait. Vaccinate!'

Phil and Pam Gradwell/Flickr

Health professionals throughout New York are spreading the word: get vaccinated!

Health advocates want to convey the message that immunizing our children is good for them and for our communities, and essential to public health.   For each of the routine childhood vaccines, the national health promotion and disease prevention initiative Healthy People 2020 target is 90 percent coverage. On average, 95 percent of all students in New York are fully immunized. But recent outbreaks of long-controlled diseases and a burgeoning anti-vaccination minority have officials concerned.

Linda Wagner is Executive Director of the County Health Officials of New York.    "The main thing we hope to achieve is to increase the herd immunity of New Yorkers to ensure that those people who cannot get vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases are not subject to those diseases. Herd immunity really protects everyone in the community from diseases that we can prevent and part of the problem is that we have new diseases that emerge, for example, we had Ebola that came to the United States - we want to focus our attention on those diseases that are not as easy to prevent, and not have to go back and worry about diseases that we've learned how to prevent."

Religious exemptions used to avoid vaccinations have doubled in the past 10 years. Herd immunity is at risk in some counties as rates have fallen. In 145 of New York's 1,900 private schools, immunizations rates are below 50 percent. Wagner notes the anti-vaccine movement, so popular out west, is rooted in misinformation spread over the internet by a physician.  "...who published a study in a medical journal but then later acknowledged that he had fraudulently created his results and he tied immunization to certain illnesses that really are not scientifically based."

Wagner says the idea behind the Campaign to ImmuNYze all New Yorkers is simple: to increase vaccination rates throughout the state, and provide easy-to-understand information why getting kids their shots is so important.     "We realize that there are many people, particularly the younger people, but many seniors are also online and they're looking at information online. You need to go where the people are, in order to get the word out."

Dr. Phil Kaplan chairs New York State Academy of Family Physicians Vaccine Policy Committee.  "Immunizations are the most cost-efficient way that we can provide improvement in public health. Better than treating illness in preventing illness. And every opportunity we have to immunize adults and children makes the community safer, as well as the individual more healthy."

Maryfran Wachunas, president of County Health Officials of New York and public health director with the Rensselaer County Department of Health, says she and her colleagues have partnered with multiple organizations on the initiative.    "The one thing we wanna stress is that we can't do this alone. We do need our partners and the partners would be, the parents, the physicians, community partners, health departments, the state. We need everybody to be on the same page and receive the same information. This campaign is a coordinated campaign and it sends out that message to make sure that you vaccinate from infants all the way up to seniors."

To help educate and vaccinate, the County Health Officials of New York has launched The Campaign to ImmuNYze all New Yorkers, using print materials, social media, and a brand new website.

The County Health Officials of New York has reached out to its members at local county health departments, as well as statewide organizations that share our goals.

They are:

Together, along with efforts on Facebook and other social and traditional media, the Campaign aims to establish a statewide reach that will increase immunization rates through New York.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
Related Content