The immunization of pregnant women, infants and children is a powerful tool to prevent serious diseases such as the flu, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps and hepatitis. Immunizations help to avoid severe illness, hospitalizations and even death.
Origins of Our Immunization Work From the mid ’70s to the present, we have focused upon health and nutrition needs of low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children who are participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Learn more about WIC here>>
The federal WIC program’s efforts have never involved immunization. But from 1989 to 1991, when we were managing a number of WIC centers, a measles epidemic severely and disproportionately impacted the children of South Los Angeles, highlighting their vulnerability to vaccine-preventable disease.
In 1993 we began to address the need for improved immunization coverage among our WIC participants. Over time we refined our approach.
Immunization Promotion Beyond WIC Because of the success we had achieved with our WIC immunization program in the 1990s, we were able to secure additional funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the REACH 2010 Initiative—Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health. Read more about REACH here>>
With this funding we formed the Immunize LA Kids Coalition (1999-2007). The Coalition’s mission was to significantly improve immunization up-to-date rates among Latino and African American children in South Los Angeles. The Coalition linked public and private agencies, providers and the community in order to develop, implement and support strategies to improve immunization rates. Learn more about Immunize LA Kids here>>
Immunization at WIC–Yesterday and Today We believe that individuals of all ages should follow the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule. At our WIC centers we encourage immunization of pregnant women and mothers, as well as infants, children and WIC staff.
Educating WIC Participants and Parents Our role is to promote immunization, not to immunize participants. We raise awareness about the importance of immunization and educate adults about the use of vaccinations to prevent serious diseases. Our goal is that our WIC parents and pregnant participants will value and seek immunization for themselves and their children.
In addition to promoting immunizations, we collaborate with community medical providers who periodically administer immunizations at several of our WIC centers.
Promoting Immunization of Infants and Children Our WIC staff members are responsible for assessing each infant’s and toddler’s immunization history, educating the mother or other caregiver, and tracking each infant’s and toddler’s immunizations.
Which Vaccinations Annually the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a particular schedule of immunizations to health care providers and parents. At our WIC centers we track all of the recommended childhood immunizations.
The first immunization, hepatitis B, is to be administered at birth, with the remainder of the primary vaccination series (commonly referred to as “baby shots”) to be administered by the second birthday. The CDC recommendation includes additional immunization series for older children. Learn more about the CDC’s recommendations here>>
Objective for Infants and Children Our objective is that at least 80% of our WIC children will be up-to-date by their second birthday with a number of vaccinations: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine), varicella (chickenpox), Hib (a type of influenza) and rotavirus.
Our WIC educators periodically review an infant’s or child’s immunization history. Initially WIC staff use information on the child’s immunization record (“yellow card”) to create or update a record in the California Immunization Registry (CAIR). This electronic record is important; it becomes available to any approved user, such as a medical provider.
After creating or updating the child’s record, our staff then share the CAIR-generated printout with the parent and refer the child to a health care provider for any needed immunizations.
Education We discuss immunization with pregnant women and parents and provide them information both during their one-on-one appointments with WIC educators and during group education sessions held at each WIC center. We encourage parents to complete their child’s primary immunization series by 24 months of age.
Referral If parents don’t already take their children to a physician or medical clinic, we inform them of the medical providers in the area who immunize infants and children.
Tracking By creating and updating records in the CAIR immunization registry, we are able to track each child’s progress.
Follow-Up Our WIC educators continue tracking each child’s recommended immunization status until his or her primary immunization series has been completed.
Achievements As of the first quarter of 2014, 76% of two-year-olds at our WIC centers were up-to-date with recommended immunizations. We are striving to meet the national Healthy People 2020 objective of 80%.
Promoting Immunization Against the Flu At our centers, WIC educators speak with pregnant participants about the importance of immunization for themselves and their unborn infants. Each woman is encouraged to become immunized against the flu as soon as possible to protect her and her unborn child from the consequences of flu during pregnancy and after giving birth.
We also urge parents to make sure their children are immunized against the flu each year, and we encourage our WIC staff to become vaccinated against the flu.
Education, Referral, Tracking, Follow-Up The protocols we follow with pregnant WIC participants (and occasionally postpartum women) are similar to those we follow with infants and toddlers. However with pregnant women, we are focused solely on immunization against the flu, concentrating our efforts during flu season, between October and April. We provide them information, refer them to a physician if they don’t have one already, track their progress and follow up with them if they haven’t yet been immunized.
Reaching Out to Medical Providers Our WIC Outreach and Provider Relations staff share information about prenatal immunization with the approximately 100 obstetricians in our service area. One goal is that during appointments with pregnant patients, medical providers will emphasize the importance of immunization against the flu and vaccinate them. Another goal is that providers will refer their pregnant patients to WIC.