Immunizations hit three-year low in county
By Stephanie Johns
Members of the Morgan County Board of Health heard about low immunization numbers from Dr. Claude Burnett, district health director, during their recent quarterly meeting.
After seeing a peak of approximately 3,400 patients in 2009, the Morgan County Health Department has experienced a steady drop, down to about 2,300 patients in 2012.
Burnett noted those numbers “dropped off dramatically” but said that a similar pattern may be seen when comparing Morgan County to other counties in the district.
The immunization program experienced the largest drop in patients: from more than 2,000 patients in 2009 down to a little more than 1,000 patients in 2012.
Burnett said the health department used to immunize about 80 percent of the babies in the county. Since 1995, though, that number has “plunged” because doctors have started doing a lot more shots in their offices.
As to flu shots, Burnett said that now that groceries and pharmacies offer these shots the health department numbers have not rebounded in spite of a “fair amount of flu” in 2012.
He said he does not think they will see those numbers recover.
Board member Bruce Gilbert asked if the health department offers a shingles shot.
Burnett said the shot is beneficial.
“It cuts the risk in half to get the shingles shot,” he said.
Leah Ainslie, family nurse practitioner and county nurse manager at Morgan County Health Department, said the one-time shot costs about $180 per person.
She noted that patients are more likely to pay their insurance co-payment at their regular physician’s office and get a checkup in addition as opposed to paying the fee at the health department.
Burnett added that they have to order at least 10 doses at a time. He explained that they do not keep the vaccine on hand for fear of it expiring before they have enough patients requesting it.
He said they could start a list of those interested in receiving the shot and when they have enough they could place the order.
Ainslie agreed, “It’s something we’ll definitely continue to explore.”
Printed in the February 14, 2013 edition