Partnership offers better data to improve childhood vaccination rates
As the country continues to vaccinate against COVID-19, it is critical children and youth remain up-to-date on all immunizations, protecting against diseases such as chicken pox, polio and measles. For generations we have been reliant on numerous routine childhood vaccinations to eliminate the risk of contracting a variety of highly contagious diseases. With COVID-19 altering everyday life for more than a year, there has been a dramatic decrease in the rate of immunizations among children and young adults, leading health officials to be concerned about outbreaks that could put the entire population at risk for diseases once thought eradicated in the U.S.
Recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association data found that there was a 26 percent decrease in childhood vaccinations between January and September 2020, and estimates up to nine million doses could be missed. In fact, 40 percent of parents skipped a vaccination for their child due to COVID-19.
Accurately determining who has missed a dose and helping them catch up, as well as vaccinating those who are eligible against COVID-19, is vital to eliminating the risk of an outbreak. In Texas, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBS TX) and the Texas Department of State Health are working together to do just that.
The Texas Department of State Health is collecting immunization records for all residents and providing BCBS TX with monthly updates on their members. This allows BCBS TX to identify anyone behind on a dose, while also affording customer service representatives the opportunity to reach out and offer education and information on accessing the vaccines needed.
“Even though we’re fighting this pandemic, we have to be mindful of these diseases we thought were eradicated,” says Dr. Leslie Weisberg, market chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. “The concern for outbreaks isn’t just for primary school; college students are at risk, too. All childhood immunizations are very important. We don’t want to see a resurgence of these diseases.”
The collaboration, which began in 2020, initially focused on BCBS TX’s Medicaid members, but has since expanded to all members. The data allows BCBS TX to identify not just individuals, but entire communities where immunization rates are low. It also gives them the opportunity to reach out with education and support.
Prior to this collaboration, BCBS TX relied on claims information—which is not always reliable when it comes to identifying vaccine rates as many people receive an immunization outside of a traditional doctor’s office such as a health department or retail pharmacy where insurance claims are not likely to be filed—along with updates from the state once or twice a year. The increase in frequency of state data has increased BCBS TX’s ability to identify vaccination rates by as much as 50 percent and increased their ability to remind members they were due for an immunization.
“Having access to this data has been a terrific tool for us,” added Dr. Weisberg. “It provides a more focused approach to our outreach efforts allowing us to identify gaps, notify members and offer education and assistance.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield Texas is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.