Gov. Norm Bangerter, who is campaigning for a healthier Utah - not to mention a second term - wants many of those who can't vote to get shot.
A vaccination, that is.Because of the state's low and declining immunization levels, Utahns have seen a resurgence of certain dangerous childhood diseases, Bangerter warned Friday. And the chief executive wants parents to do something about it.
"Despite the existence of a statewide immunization law for public and private schools (kindergarten through 12th grade) and licensed child care facilities, the percentage of Utah's children adequately immunized against seven childhood diseases has steadily declined over the last four years," the governor said at a news conference in the Salt Lake City-County Health Department.
"Not quite 80 percent of our day-care center children were found to be adequately immunized when surveyed in late 1987. Even more serious, the same surveys found that only 60 percent of Utah's 2-year-old children were adequately immunized."
Bangerter said it's largely because of these declines that pertussis, or whooping cough, cases have increased dramatically. More cases of this disease were reported in Utah in 1985 and 1986 than in any year since 1965.
"Whooping cough is a very serious childhood disease," he emphasized. "In 1986, over 50 percent of the cases required hospitalization, for an average hospital stay of 61/2 days. Forty-one of these cases had received no doses of pertussis vaccine."
Yet, according to a health department executive, the public's fear of these diseases has subsided.
"One of the problems that we find is because the diseases are not currently around us to the extent they were 20 or 30 years ago, parents seem to forget that they are still problems," said Dr. Suzanne Dandoy, executive director, Utah Department of Health.
Dandoy said because the "iron lung" (used in the 1950s to treat polio) isn't now featured prominently on television, some parents have adopted a kind of "out of mind, not apparent" philosophy.
Others have different excuses for not getting their children vaccinated. Some working mothers, she said, complain they don't have the time. Other parents fear possible complications from the vaccines, especially pertussis.
"We try to let people know that the disease is still far more dangerous than the complications from the vaccine," Dandoy said.
Costs of the vaccines have also increased dramatically.
In 1983, under federal contract with drug manufacturers, states were able to purchase the DPT vaccine for 12 cents a dose. The current cost is $8.46 a dose _ almost a 7,000 percent increase, said Rick Crankshaw, coordinator of the state health department's immunization program.
"Despite increased vaccine costs in recent years, the immunization program is still one of Utah's most cost-effective public health programs," Bangerter said. "There is no excuse today for a child to become infected with pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus or polio.
"Under state law, no child may be denied immunizations in a public immunization clinic, because of a family's inability to pay."
Bangerter, who officially declared August as "Back to School Immunization Month," said parents should ensure that children entering day care centers and school are fully immunized _ and in compliance with the law.