A new multimedia campaign is designed to reverse a big decline in Kentucky children’s vaccination rates. “Raise Your Guard, KY” urges Kentuckians to get themselves and their families back on track with scheduled immunizations to prevent life-threatening diseases and illnesses. The month-long campaign also reminds them to get their annual flu shots, which help keep their immune systems strong.
The effort is funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Kentucky Medical Association, its Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kentucky. Gov. Andy Beshear was scheduled to formally announce the campaign at his news briefing Thursday.
“It’s vitally important, particularly during a pandemic, to take proven steps to prevent other infectious diseases that can cause community outbreaks,” Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Department for Public Health, said in a news release. “During a time when so much seems out of our control, boosting vaccination rates is something we can accomplish together.”
Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in the release, “Childhood immunization rates in Kentucky have yet to recover from the sharp decline during the first several months of the coronavirus pandemic, putting tens of thousands of children at risk for a host of dangerous, vaccine-preventable diseases. The decline also reduces the ‘herd immunity’ that protects all Kentuckians from diseases such as measles, mumps and hepatitis.”
From March to June 2020, Kentucky children got many fewer vaccinations than in the same period the year before, the release said. Immunization rates fell 28% among children under 2, 46% among those 4 to 6, and 57% among adolescents. When the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March, orders for vaccines dropped, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“In Kentucky, even before the pandemic, many Kentucky infants and toddlers were living in counties where fewer than half of the children their age are immunized against chicken pox, polio, rubella and meningitis,” the release said. “Similarly, in many Kentucky counties, fewer than half of Kentucky teens received their meningitis booster in 2019.”
Doctors are ready, willing and able to provide vaccinations, KMA President Dale Toney said. “Kentucky physicians’ offices are open and safe,” he said in the release. “Updating our immunizations is one of the safest and most effective things we can do to protect ourselves and our communities. And by preventing some diseases, our immune systems are better able to ward off or minimize the impact of others, like the coronavirus that causes covid-19.”
The campaign includes billboards, social media and ads for radio and streaming media services. The ads begin airing today and will continue through August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month
, and into September. Social media will continue throughout the fall. Campaign materials are available for download here
. More information is available at RaiseYourGuardKY.org
. For the CDC guidelines for flu vaccinations, updated today, click here
“During this time of upheaval and uncertainty, there’s one thing we know for sure: Vaccines work,” Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said in the release. “My six-month-old daughter, Evelynne, has begun her immunizations. Like all parents, we want her to grow up healthy and safe. I applaud the Raise Your Guard, KY campaign. Let’s work together for the health of our commonwealth.”