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Why are childhood immunizations important?

Vaccines are one of the best ways to avoid serious and deadly diseases.

Children’s immune systems are more vulnerable to illness and disease, and vaccination schedules are scientifically designed by top infectious disease experts and doctors with this in mind. The goal is to protect kids from vaccine-preventable diseases as early and as safely as possible. They work with the body’s natural defenses to develop its resistance to illnesses. Far fewer people have become sick or died from diseases like meningitis, polio, rubella and diphtheria since most people began getting regular vaccinations. Vaccines are safe and effective to protect children from getting seriously ill from these preventable illnesses.

It is recommended that children have these immunizations before they turn two years old.

  • Influenza (annual flu shot)
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP)
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap “booster” for adolescents)
  • Poliovirus (IPV)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (Chickenpox)
  • Pneumococcal (PCV)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Rotavirus
  • Hepatitis B (Hep B)

What did we do to increase childhood immunizations among our members?

HealthPartners wanted to understand which of our members were up to date on immunizations and who would benefit from reminders about the importance of immunizations. We analyzed our data and saw that Medicaid members were nearly twice as likely to need immunizations compared to commercial members. In addition, Black and Indigenous children are much more likely to need immunizations than white children. We shared this information with our care groups including the zip codes that have low immunization rates so they could help us reach out to children for immunizations.

How did we reach out to parents?

We created a new campaign to educate parents about immunizations, their importance, and their safety. We encouraged them to contact their clinic to talk to their doctor about getting caught up. This information was delivered by email whenever we had the family’s email address, otherwise it was sent in the mail.

We feel childhood immunizations are so important that we offer a $25 gift card to MHCP members who receive all the recommended immunizations before their second birthday. We promote this in our member materials, on our website and with our county C&TC partners.

We worked with Community Health Workers (CHWs) to make phone calls to members who need to get immunizations. CHWs are trusted, knowledgeable front line health personnel who typically come from the communities they serve. They were able to reach out to members in their own language and help them make appointments for the care they needed.

How do we collaborate with providers?

Parents rely on their doctor for information on their child’s health. HealthPartners rewards health care providers who do a great job of providing care for our members with both financial rewards and recognition awards. Childhood immunizations are one of the measures that are included in that package.

We hold periodic meetings, called Quality Connections, to bring together quality staff from various clinics and share best practices around quality improvement activities. Several clinics have discussed how they have improved their immunization rates for young children so other doctors can do better as well.

What challenges did we face?

There were many unique challenges in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid 19 global pandemic. Immunizations and well child visits for young children were always available during this time, but fear of exposure to Covid 19 made some parents reluctant to bring their child in to their clinic for any care.

Many children who turned two years old in 2021 would have started their immunizations in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Because of fears of exposure, these children got started late and did not catch up with the full vaccine schedule by their second birthday.

Many parents are not fully aware of the immunizations that their child needs, so our messages included information about what is recommended. Mailing addresses and phone numbers can change which means we can’t reach the family.

Some families who are reluctant to get the covid vaccine may become reluctant to get other vaccines as well. We included information about the safety of vaccines in our messages.

Results

 
2019 DOS HEDIS®
2020 DOS HEDIS®
2021 DOS*
Combo 10 immunizations
For PMAP Members
49.4% 49.9% 39.4%

Our results show that we still have a lot of work to do to recover from the impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on well child care and immunizations.

*internal monitoring data

Ongoing work

HealthPartners is committed to working to increase childhood immunizations. In 2022, we continue to reach out to members who need immunizations. We are working with the clinics who care for our members to help them remind families of the importance of immunizations and to reward them for doing a good job with this. We will continue to provide an incentive to Minnesota Healthcare Programs (PMAP and MNCare) members.

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