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Marion County health leader urges a return to ‘routine’ immunizations

Dr. Virginia Caine on vaccinations

Daybreak interview with Dr. Virginia Caine about the "Finish the Race" campaign

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In the first “shot” of a new immunization campaign, the director of the Marion County Public Health Department joined WISH-TV’s Daybreak for a direct appeal to families across the community.

“Since the pandemic, we’ve had a lot of our children fall behind on their vaccination rates, and we’re seeing an increase now of those vaccine preventable diseases,” Dr. Virginia Caine said.

Caine offered a cautionary example. “Measles, which we almost nearly completely control, we’re now seeing six outbreaks across the country. Most recently a major outbreak going on right now is Chicago, which is impacting one new case for us in Northern Indiana.”

State health leaders say the measles case confirmed in Lake County in February is the first in Indiana in five years.

Caine wants it to be the last. Her department is launching an immunization campaign called “Finish the Race: Prevent. Promote. Protect.”

“The campaign is trying to really encourage parents and grandparents to understand the value and importance of getting their children vaccinated,” Caine said. “We know that 1 out of every 5 kindergartners are behind on their vaccines. 1 out of 4 sixth graders are behind on their vaccines. And if you’re a high school senior, 1 out of 3 are not up to date with their vaccines.”

Indiana Department of Health figures show that between 2017 and last year, vaccination rates dropped by nearly 10% for polio, MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella), influenza, hepatitis, DTP (diphtheria, tetanus, and Pertussis), and more. The state requires students to receive certain vaccines in order to attend school.

Expanding on pertussis, Caine said, “That’s whooping cough. In our little toddlers, it’s such a horrendous cough and it hurts their chest and everything, but it can be life threatening. So we need to have grandparents or anybody visiting our toddlers or newborn babies, they need to have their pertussis whooping cough vaccine.”

Caine tells us she learned that lesson herself, the hard way, when she wanted to visit with family: “I hadn’t gotten my whooping cough vaccine. So my nephew said, ‘Hey, you’re not coming into the house until you have that vaccine.’ I said that’s OK. I’m getting it the next day. No problem. I’m not going to miss seeing my babies.”

WISH-TV is partnering with the Marion County Health Department for the “Finish the Race” campaign, so look for more stories from now through June.