SPRINGFIELD – As cases of measles continue to rise across the U.S., the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is taking action to prevent cases of measles and increase vaccination rates. Recent actions range from direct outreach to communities with low vaccination rates, new grants for local health departments, and public education campaigns.
“Vaccines are our most effective and safest tool for combatting disease and our department is deeply committed to helping those who are able get vaccinated,” said Acting IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “We are actively working to increase vaccination rates in communities with the lowest rates and will continue to engage local health departments, schools, and community organizations in the critical work of keeping Illinoisans healthy and safe.”
Recent IDPH actions include:
• COMMUNITY GRANTS: IDPH is providing an additional $3.5 million in grants to local health departments across the state to increase awareness campaigns and help build infrastructure so that it is easier to get vaccinated. With this additional funding:
o Medical grade refrigerators will be purchased to safely store vaccines.
o Vaccine and supplies such as syringes, gloves, and gauze will be purchased.
o Vaccination videos will air in movie theaters showing children’s films in certain areas.
• MOBILE UNITS: IDPH is preparing to deploy its Wellness on Wheels (WOW) mobile units not only to local health departments, but to other organizations across the state. The WOW mobile units can be driven to neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates in an effort to make vaccination more accessible. They can also be requested for special community events that parents and children often attend like fairs and neighborhood celebrations.
o Interested organizations can e-mail email@example.com or call 217-785-4311 for more information. Organizations can fill out the Wellness on Wheels Mobile Request Form to request a WOW mobile unit.
• DIRECT OUTREACH: Dr. Ezike and IDPH are engaging in direct outreach to communities with low vaccination rates. Recent outreach includes meeting with the Sangamon County Health Department, Springfield school district, and rabbinical and Islamic leaders in the Chicagoland area. This week, IDPH also met with the Illinois Immunization Advisory Council members and stakeholders to discuss the measles outbreaks across the country as well as the Immunization Action Plan.
• PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGNS: IDPH launched a social media vaccination education campaign for National Infant Immunization Week that, on Facebook alone, reached more than 50,000 people. IDPH is preparing additional educational materials for a back-to-school vaccination campaign.
• HEALTH CARE GUIDANCE: IDPH has issued guidance to health care providers for measles testing, reporting, and prevention. New information was sent to providers on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, that summarizes current vaccine recommendations, reinforces testing and isolation guidance, and encourages facilities to enhance vaccine efforts by focusing on age-appropriate, on-time vaccination of children and high-risk adults. Information issued also included:
• VFC COVERAGE: IDPH is continuing to recruit and retain Vaccine For Children (VFC) health care providers. The VFC program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost for children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. While the previous administration’s efforts to oversee this program resulted in a multi-million dollar debt, the current administration is committed to making this program work throughout Illinois. The VFC program helps children get their vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule.
As of May 10, 2019, 839 cases of measles have been identified in 23 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was eliminated in 2000. Illinois has had seven reported cases in 2019.