South Dakota recently lost ground and slipped behind the national rate for early-childhood immunizations, according to data presented Friday at a statewide conference.
The South Dakota goal for children aged 19 to 35 months is 80 percent. The state rate reached 76.3 percent in 2014 but dropped since then to 75.6 in 2015 and 70.4 in 2016.
The national rate meanwhile also fell to 70.7 percent in 2016.
State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton suggested health providers should discuss their experiences when talking to hesitant parents.
Linda Daugaard, whose husband is in his final months as governor, recalled measles and mumps as “almost a rite of passage” for children who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s.
“As grandparents we remember those days,” Daugaard said. She noted, “Immunizations are a shared responsibility.”
Dr. Barbara Pahud focused her presentation on vaccine hesitancy. She is associate director of the vaccine and treatment evaluation unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I do a lot of vaccine research,” Pahud said. “Anything I can do to improve vaccine coverage, I will do.”
She outlined ideas and techniques providers can try to increase vaccine acceptance among parents.
Pahud said she too feared injections for her daughter.
She said under-vaccinations have increased among children 24 months and younger, rising to 54 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 2004.
There’s also more “cherry-picking” by parents who accept some vaccinations for their children but refuse others, she said.
Pahud suggested providers talk with parents about concepts such as purity and liberty.
“You’ve got to remember, this is the goal of parents, to protect their children,” she said. “They’re just trying to do what’s best for their child.”