More parents vaccinate kids in San Diego than state, national average

SAN DIEGO — More parents in San Diego County vaccinate their children on average, compared with those across the state and nation, according to a survey released Thursday by the county Health and Human Services Agency.

The survey revealed that 80.6 percent of county children between 19 and 35 months have received recommended vaccines. That’s just above the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 recommended target of 80 percent.

The percent of fully immunized children in the state and nation is 65.3 and 70.7 percent, meanwhile.

“We’re ahead of California and the United States, and that is great news for our children,” said county public health officer Wilma Wooten. “The higher the vaccination rates, the lower the risks of children getting sick and infecting others.”

County staff conducted nearly 4,000 surveys and made more than 550,000 random calls between July 2016 and May 2017 to gather data.

Interviewers asked questions regarding vaccination status across different age groups to determine how many people have up-to-date immunizations. Interviews were conducted in multiple languages to secure a more comprehensive sampling of the local population, according to the county.

The percent of county adolescents between 13 and 17 years old who have been vaccinated against chickenpox, Tdap and meningococcal disease also exceed federal targets as well as state and national averages.

However, additional education is needed on the human papillomavirus vaccine’s ability to protect against cancer, Wooten said. Only 54 percent of local adolescents were up-to-date on the HPV vaccine. That’s higher than state and national averages of 49 and 43 percent, respectively, but below the federal goal of 80 percent.

HPV causes most cervical cancers, as well as cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, rectum, anus and throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Influenza vaccine data was more encouraging.

Eighty-one percent of county residents 65 years or older got a flu shot during the 2015-16 season, according to the county survey, which surpasses the federal goal of 70 percent that also was the average statewide and nationally.

The survey also showed that 67 percent of high-risk people between the ages of 18 and 64 — including those with heart, lung, diabetes and immune system problems — also got their flu shot, compared with 42 percent in the state and 46 percent across the U.S.

Survey data is important in planning additional education and outreach campaigns, Wooten said.

“Vaccines are the most effective tool we have to keep San Diegans healthy,” Wooten said. “We must do all we can to inform our San Diego communities about how to protect themselves from vaccine preventable diseases.”