Public health nurses sometimes unwittingly give a child a second dose of the same vaccine because the records weren't available to prevent it.
In an effort to repair a system that health officials consider costly and haphazard, a statewide push is under way to establish six regional immunization registries. The effort was granted $300,000 from the state Health Department and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota last week.
Registries will be in northeastern Minnesota, St. Cloud, Thief River Falls, Mankato, Minneapolis and Benton.
The registries should allow more children to be immunized. About 82 percent of Minnesota children are immunized, said Bill Brand, the Health Department's immunization registry coordinator. He would like to see an immunization rate of 90 percent.
State law requires several vaccinations throughout a child's early school years for diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. Starting next school year, all kindergartners and seventh- through 12th-graders will also need a hepatitis B vaccine.
If children aren't vaccinated within a specified time period, they often have to be sent home from school, putting pressure on nurses and parents to track down the necessary information.
''It leads to a ton of frustrating calls,'' Brand said.
The registries would mail notices to remind parents of upcoming vaccinations.
''Right now we are relying on their memory or them writing it down on the calendar,'' said Guy Peterson, St. Louis County's public health nursing supervisor.
Getting vaccinated isn't simply a matter of following the law. From a public health perspective, missing vaccinations raises the risk that a virulent bug could travel among unprotected students and spread to the population at large, Peterson said.
Access to the data in the registries would be limited to school, day-care and public health officials to protect children's privacy.
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