ADPH promotes childhood immunizations for disease prevention

Published 6:45 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Childhood immunizations are essential to helping provide disease immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Alabama parents can protect their children from 14 different, almost forgotten, but potentially deadly diseases by making one choice — electing on-time scheduled vaccinations as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

East Central District Clinic Director Joseph Rightmyer said parents can elect to claim a religious exemption to bypass vaccinations required for school registration. His region, which serves Lowndes County, sees many parents who elect this option, but he recommends families consider immunizations as vital tools for protecting children and communities from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases.

“Let’s take polio as an example,” Rightmyer said. “It’s a horrible disease kids used to get. A lot of them would be crippled or die from it.

“Polio was one of the first vaccines created. It improved the numbers [of cases] to the point where we almost eradicated polio.”

The CDC lists 14 diseases as “almost forgotten” now thanks to vaccines: Polio, tetanus, influenza, Hepatitis A and B, rubella, haemophilus influenza type B (HIB), measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, mumps, chickenpox, and diphtheria.

“The Health Departments follow CDC guidelines,” said ADPH Southeastern District Clinic Director, Johna Cotton, who serves Butler and Crenshaw counties. “The Academy of Pediatrics recommends a certain number of shots. As a public entity, we will give anyone, any child their shots.”

The Vaccines for Children program helps remove vaccine cost as barriers, enabling communities to gain childhood immunizations within their community through county ADPD offices and participating providers.

“VFC is a federal program,” Rightmyer said. “That allows us to purchase vaccines at a reduced cost.”

Children from birth through 18 years of age eligible to receive free vaccines through this program include children who are: Medicaid enrolled, uninsured, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or under-insured.

Children who have health insurance that does not include vaccines as a covered benefit may also receive free vaccines through the VFC Program from a federally qualified health center or a rural health clinic.

“There are so many providers that can administer vaccines,” Cotton said. “No one should be without vaccines because they are readily available. At Public Health, we will help anybody get their vaccine.”

County health departments provide a number of services to eligible citizens, including women’s health options, COVID vaccines and a host of others.

For more information, call or visit a local Public Health Department. Information is also available at alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization.