KENNEWICK — There are some high numbers Sandy Owen isn't so proud of -- the Tri-Cities' chlamydia and teen pregnancy rates, for example.
But Owen, the preventative health services director for the Benton-Franklin Health District, was able to stand in front of the district's board on Wednesday and crow about some numbers she's proud of -- the number of children getting fully immunized against infectious diseases.
"I received notice from the state, and we're doing pretty well," Owen said.
According to data she showed the Benton and Franklin county commissioners who make up the health board, about 93 percent of children who started kindergarten in the two counties last fall had gotten all of their shots. That number is closer to 85 percent for the state as a whole.
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"Compared to the state, we're doing really well," she said.
When Owen started work with the district in 1997, just 65 percent of children got their full immunization series by the time they started kindergarten.
That number had jumped to 90 percent by 1999, and has hovered between about 93 percent and 96 percent since 2001.
Owen said one of the reasons the immunization rates are so high in Benton and Franklin counties is because the health district offers a public child immunization program that allows parents to bring their children to the district offices to get their shots if they can't get them at their doctor's office.
Nearby Yakima County doesn't have an immunization program in its health department and has about 80 percent of children getting fully immunized by the time they start school.
To be considered fully immunized, children must get four doses of the diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis vaccine, four doses of polio, two doses of measles/mumps/rubella, three doses of hepatitis B and two doses of chicken pox vaccine.
Officials with the state Department of Health said Wednesday that parents should start thinking about immunizations now, even though school still is a couple of months away.
Diseases can spread in places like summer camps, and children can be at risk if they're not immunized.
"Parents want their kids to be healthy and safe, especially when they're away from home," said Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer. "Just as you try to protect your kids from sunburns, bug bites and injuries, you should also protect them from diseases."
For more information about the health district's immunization program, visit bfhd.wa.gov and click "immunizations."
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org