Kentuckians Urged to Update Vaccines Following Drop in Immunization Rates During Pandemic

Kentuckians Urged to Update Vaccines Following Drop in Immunization Rates During Pandemic

Kentucky Medical Association, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care, and Foundation For A Health Kentucky team up to launch “Raise Your Guard, KY” campaign

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 20, 2020) – A new campaign designed to counter the sharp decline in vaccination rates among Kentucky children launched today across the state. Raise Your Guard, KY urges Kentuckians to contact their physicians to get themselves and their families back on track with scheduled immunizations to prevent dozens of life-threatening diseases and illnesses. The month-long, multimedia campaign also reminds residents to get their annual flu shots starting in September to help keep their immune systems strong.

Raise Your Guard, KY is funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Kentucky. Gov. Andy Beshear will announce the campaign today by showing a brief video during his afternoon COVID-19 media briefing.

“Disparities persist between Medicaid beneficiaries and Kentuckians with private insurance in terms of immunization rates,” noted Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “Immunization Awareness Month is the ideal time to take actions that lead to closing this gap.”

“It’s vitally important, particularly during a pandemic, to take proven steps to prevent other infectious diseases that can cause community outbreaks,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Department for Public Health. “During a time when so much seems out of our control, boosting vaccination rates is something we can accomplish together.”

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman also supports the campaign: “During this time of upheaval and uncertainty, there’s one thing we know for sure: Vaccines work. 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.”

Nationwide, vaccine orders began a notable decline the week after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in March, according to the CDC. 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. Similarly, in many Kentucky counties, fewer than half of Kentucky teens received their meningitis booster in 2019. For Kentuckians on Medicaid during the four-month period of March to June 2020, immunization rates declined 28 percent for children below two years of age, 46 percent for children ages four through six, and 57 percent for adolescents compared to the same period in 2019, according to the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services.

“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,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “The decline also reduces the ‘herd immunity’ that protects all Kentuckians from diseases such as measles, mumps and hepatitis.”

“Kentucky physicians’ offices are open and safe,” said Dale Toney, M.D., president of the Kentucky Medical Association. “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.”

Raise Your Guard, KY campaign elements include ads for radio and streaming media services, billboards and social media. The ads begin airing today and will continue through August – which is National Immunization Awareness Month – and into September.

“Thanks to effective vaccines, many of us living today don’t remember what it was like when diseases such as polio, whooping cough and smallpox infected millions of people every year, and left tens of thousands dead or permanently disabled,” said Jeff Reynolds, M.D., medical director of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky. “Vaccines are critical to protecting people’s and the public’s health and safety.”

Lewis Hargett, M.D., president of the Falls City Medical Society, also added his endorsement: “In recent months, families have been doing their part by staying at home as much as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As communities reopen, it’s essential to see a physician regularly to discuss any health concerns, as well as to make sure you and your family are caught up on vaccinations. They are a vital part of keeping our community safe and our economy open and functioning well.”

“It’s time to Raise Your Guard, Kentucky, by visiting your physician and updating your immunizations,” said Shawn Jones, M.D., president of the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care.

Campaign materials are available for download here. More information is available at RaiseYourGuardKY.org.

About Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $29 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Visit www.healthy-ky.org.

About the Kentucky Medical Association

Established in 1851, the Kentucky Medical Association is a professional organization for physicians throughout the Commonwealth. The KMA works on behalf of physicians and the patients they serve to ensure the delivery of quality, affordable healthcare. Members of the KMA share a mission of commitment to the profession and service to the citizens of this Commonwealth that extends across rural and urban areas. From solo practitioners to academicians to large, multi-specialty groups, KMA is the ONLY state association representing every specialty and type of medical practice in Kentucky.

About Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the trade name of Anthem Health Plans of Kentucky, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. ANTHEM is a registered trademark of Anthem Insurance Companies, Inc. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield names and symbols are registered marks of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Additional information about Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky is available at www.anthem.com. Also, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/anthemBCBS and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnthemBlueCrossBlueShield.

About the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care

Founded by the Kentucky Medical Association in 1971, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care (KFMC) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to improving the health of all Kentuckians through medical education and public health initiatives.

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Media Contacts:
Bonnie J. Hackbarth
bhackbarth@healthy-ky.org
877-326-2583 (Office)
502-552-3770 (Mobile)

Jeff Blunt
Jeff.Blunt@anthem.com
513-315-1145 (Mobile)

Emily Schott
schott@kyma.org
502-814-1388 (Office)
502-341-1926 (Mobile)