UM Professor Analyzes Montana Childhood Under Vaccination
University of Montana professor Dr. Sophia Newcomer in the University’s Center for Population Health Research has been looking into the subject of childhood under-vaccination.
“We are working collaboratively with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services on a study that looks at vaccination rates in young children under the age of two,” said Dr. Newcomer.
Newcomer described the focus of her research.
“As a researcher, one of my interests is looking at this persistent problem that we have in the United States where in rural areas of the country, vaccination coverage in young children is lower than in suburban and urban areas,” she said. “In Montana, we've known for several years that the vaccination coverage among young children in Montana is lower than in other states.”
Newcomer described the steps taken by researchers.
“The first step was to look at and to analyze vaccination data with the state and to try to identify reasons why children are not getting vaccines or they're not getting vaccines on time,” she said. “That work was recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and then the second part of the study that we're continuing to work on has to do with identifying geographic areas across the state, where children are falling behind on vaccinations.”
Newcomer described two different barriers to childhood vaccination; lack of opportunity and hesitancy of parents to vaccinate their young children.
“These two different types of barriers to vaccination, whether it be barriers to just getting to a clinic, versus concerns about vaccines, the strategies to deal with those are very different,” she said. “So in terms of your question related to vaccine hesitancy and confidence, I think some of the best strategies there do have to do with that patient or family physician relationship, and just really making sure that parents and families are getting the answers to the questions that they might have about vaccines.”
The study said making sure children are vaccinated on time is crucial to preventing diseases during COVID-19 like measles, which needs a 95% vaccination rate for herd immunity.
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