World Immunization Week: No Controversy

A measles outbreak that reportedly began last December in, of all places, Disneyland quickly spread across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 166 people from 19 states and the District of Columbia contracted measles. 70% of them trace back to the initial amusement park outbreak. Meanwhile, a raging debate spread too. Should immunizations be required? Are they safe and effective? If my child is not immunized, does that impact the safety of others?

So, because it is World Immunization Week, we think it’s the perfect time to consult the NCQA data on this matter. By ‘data’, we of course mean the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®). Health insurance plans use HEDIS to measure their performance on important dimensions of care and service. HEDIS is also the key resource for our annual The State of Health Care Quality Report.

The report includes observations on immunizations based upon data that shows how many children and adolescents are actually getting them. Here are some of them:

Childhood Immunization Status

“It is estimated that for each group of children vaccinated, 14 million cases of disease are prevented, direct health care costs are reduced by $9.9 billion and indirect costs are reduced by $33.4 billion.”

“Vaccines are considered one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions and are responsible for dramatically reducing pediatric morbidity and mortality in the United States.”

“Although U.S. childhood immunization rates are generally high, some areas remain vulnerable to outbreaks of infection, such as measles.”

The Bottom Line

“Childhood vaccines protect children from a number of serious and potentially life-threatening diseases such as diphtheria, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus and whooping cough, at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable to disease. Approximately 300 children in the United States die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Observations are similar for adolescents:

Immunizations for Adolescents

“Vaccine-preventable diseases are expensive for society as a whole—they cost more than $10 billion in direct medical costs and indirect societal costs. In 2012, 48,777 pertussis cases and 20 pertussis-related deaths in the United States were reported to the CDC.”

“Meningococcal meningitis can cause severe brain damage and is fatal in half of untreated cases. Meningitis was responsible for 608 deaths in the United States in 2010.”

The Bottom Line

“Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect adolescents against potentially deadly diseases.”

“Receiving recommended vaccinations is the best defense against vaccine-preventable diseases, including meningococcal meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).”

“These are serious diseases that can cause breathing difficulties, heart problems, nerve damage, pneumonia, seizures and even death. Immunizing adolescents is an important way to prevent serious illnesses for which we have effective vaccines.”

It is worth noting this report was published before the recent measles outbreak. You could say, there is no controversy from our perspective. Immunizations make an impact on the overall quality of the nation’s health. Just look at the data.

It’s here: The State of Health Care Quality 2014

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