Just 21 percent of Kansas females age 13-17 completed the full course of HPV vaccinations in 2013. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is common and causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, and can cause other cancers in both men and women. A series of three vaccinations, usually administered to preteen boys and girls, can prevent the virus and the cancer it causes.
That same year, only 55.9 percent of Kansas teenagers of the same age received at least one dose of the vaccine that can prevent meningococcal meningitis. A serious illness often associated with college students, meningitis can cause complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, neurological problems or even death.
The vaccination rates in Kansas for both illnesses have remained among the lowest in the nation over the past several years, and in fact, the three-dose HPV vaccination rate for Kansas adolescent girls was tied for the lowest in the country in 2013. A coalition of Kansas doctors, health department officials, researchers and educators are working to improve the rates through a group called the Immunize Kansas Coalition.
The 23 member organizations of the Immunize Kansas Coalition (IKC) are working together to protect Kansans from vaccine-preventable diseases. Their goal for 2015 is to focus on improving access to and rates of adolescent immunizations, paying special attention to HPV and meningococcal vaccination rates. IKC will support effective immunization practices in residency programs, private clinics and health departments with recognition awards and will work to strengthen immunization policies in the state.
“Kansas adolescents rank in the bottom tier of states for rate of vaccination against several critical diseases, such as HPV and meningococcal meningitis,” said Dr. John Eplee, chair of the Immunize Kansas Coalition and former president of the Kansas Medical Society. “This coalition was formed to raise immunization rates in Kansas, and we will work to make our state a model for the rest of the country by implementing innovative practices and effective policies that protect citizens from vaccine-preventable diseases.”
The Immunize Kansas Coalition, previously known as Immunize Kansas Kids, was formed in 2005 to protect Kansas children age 0-5 from vaccine-preventable diseases. With financial support from the Kansas Health Foundation, Immunize Kansas Kids commissioned studies to identify barriers to improving the state’s immunization rates and used the findings to craft a sustainable action plan. Much of their work is available online on the Kansas Health Matters website. Recently, members chose to expand the coalition’s reach by focusing on all Kansans, not just young children. Their new name also reflects the change in focus.
The Immunize Kansas Coalition is supported by the following member organizations:
Child Care Aware® of Kansas
Harvey County Health Department
Johnson County Health Department
Kansas Academy of Family Physicians
Kansas Action for Children
Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved
Kansas Association of Local Health Departments
Kansas Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Kansas Foundation for Medical Care
Kansas Head Start Association
Kansas Health Institute
Kansas Healthcare Collaborative
Kansas Medical Mutual Insurance Company
Kansas Medical Society
Kansas School Nurse Organization
Reno County Health Department
Saline County Health Department
Sedgwick County Health Department
University of Kansas Medical Center
Wilson County Health Department
Wyandotte County Health Department