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Dr. Melissa St. Germain, center, questions Broderick, 4, about his vegetable-eating habits as his mom, Jennifer Hansen, laughs. Broderick was getting his pre-kindergarten checkup and measles vaccination.

Teen vaccination rates are up — both locally and across the state.

From 2017 to 2018, the immunization rates for Iowa teens rose, topping the averages for the region (Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri) and the nation, according to a press release from the Iowa Department of Public Health that cited a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The biggest change was seen in the meningococcal vaccination, which was not required in Iowa until 2017. The rate increased from 83.6% in 2017 to 89.2% in 2018 and exceeded the national rate of 86.6% and the regional rate of 80.9%.

A big jump was seen locally.

“There has been a tremendous improvement in the meningococcal vaccination rate,” said Deb Blodgett, nurse at Lewis Central High School.

All incoming seniors have to have the meningococcal immunization, Blodgett said.

“The first year, we started (notifying parents) right before school started, and 114 kids did not have it,” she said. “This year, we only had six that didn’t have it.”

Blodgett said she thinks more information has gotten out about the requirement, partly through local physicians and the school district.

“This year was a huge improvement on what we’ve had the last two years,” she said. “It also requires us to start almost six months early getting those letters out” to remind parents of the requirement.

In 2018, Iowa’s Tdap vaccination rate was 94%, up from 93.4% in 2017 and higher than the national average of 88.9% and the regional average of 86.6%, the press release stated.

Students are required to have a booster of the Tdap vaccination — for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough — sometime between turning 10 years old and starting seventh grade, Blodgett said.

“We have a great immunization compliance rate for the Tdap booster for our seventh-grade students at Lewis Central,” said Amy Hallam, district nurse, who is based at Lewis Central Middle School.

In fact, the school had almost 100% compliance on the Tdap booster this year, she said.

Council Bluffs Community School District also had a high vaccination rate this year, according to Tim Hamilton, chief of student and family services.

“Our health staff have worked really hard with families to make sure everybody is in compliance,” he said. “Between our seventh- and 12th-grade students, we currently sit at just below 5% who have not yet provided documentation of all vaccines.”

Iowa’s HPV vaccination rates for males and females combined in 2018 were 73.4% for the first dose and 55.1% for the whole series, the press release stated. Both rates were up from 2017 and higher than the national (68.1%, 51.1%) and regional (66.4%, 47.6%) averages.

About half of Lewis Central High School students get the HPV vaccination, which is not currently required in Iowa but is recommended by some health officials, Blodgett said.

“We have a lot of parents that do take care of it, but some feel that’s one more vaccine to put into my child’s body,” she said.

Vaccination is a lifelong effort for each person, the press release stated.

“Recent disease outbreaks across the country illustrate that while vaccines are essential in preventing disease, many Americans do not utilize these life-saving tools to protect themselves, their families and their communities from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines have the ability to protect Iowans of all ages from serious and sometimes deadly infectious diseases.”

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