JEFFERSON CITY - Although the vaccination for three bacterial infections has been around for decades, Missouri ranks one of the worst in the nation for providing it to children of low income families.
Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, commonly known as Whooping Cough, have been preventable by vaccination since the 1940s. Diptheria and Whooping Cough are contracted from person to person contact, while Tetanus enters the body through cuts and wounds. All of them can lead to serious injuries if not death if left untreated.
The children of lower income parents with federal WIC, or Women, Infant and Children, benefits have a vaccination rate well below the national average. Missouri WIC recipients average the third lowest in the nation for the vaccination given to children ages 19-35 months, higher than only Nevada and Alaska, federal statistics indicate.
WIC is a supplemental nutrition program that provides planning, education and services to pregnant women, new mothers and young children based on nutritional risk and income eligibility. WIC provides for nearly half of all infants born in the U.S. and more than 47,000 children in Missouri.
While the program provides food and nutritional services, it does not fund vaccination treatments. Of the 47,000 Missouri children in the program, 72 percent of them like will be vaccinated for three diseases, 10 percent lower than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"They encourage vaccinations and then we give the vaccinations at the health department," said Cindy Berngarth, a nurse at the Columbia Health Department. "We (the health department) are provided funding through the state Vaccines for Children program, which allows us to provide vaccines for children."
For years, there have been mixed opinions about whether vaccinating children is safe or not. Bergarth encourages it.
"I think that there are some real unfounded concerns by parents many times and fears about vaccines. A lot of those fears have kind of led to people not wanting to vaccinate," Berngarth said. "There is a lot of information out there that shows that they are not based on fact."
Parents can bring their children's records to a WIC agency, which will review them and decide if vaccinations are needed. The agency then refers a family to a provider, but WIC does not fund the immunizations.
"I would encourage parents to research that information and then consider vaccinating their children. There are a lot of good things that come from vaccinations," Brengarth said. "Safety and protection of our children is No. 1."