Heidi Parker


Recently, we reported on how the immunization rate in Nevada has been improving. We thought readers would like more information on this trend. Heidi Parker is executive director of Immunize Nevada.

When I did some research, it seems to me that there are a couple of things that helped contribute to this. Anti-vaxxers in the state are not organized, and there’s a lot of free vaccinating—clinics, health fairs and so forth.

Yes, I think our partners have done a great job of increasing community access. We have partners who might extend clinic hours. We know not everybody works the traditional schedule in Nevada, and so we have industries that definitely—parents are working non-traditional hours. We have clinics and providers that have made access to appointments easier. … We have partners that have helped by bringing vaccines to the people in the community. So whether it’s a community event, whether maybe for back-to-school, maybe it’s at a mall, they’re kind of getting into those zip codes that we know need a little more access. Another piece of the puzzle that I think is incredibly important is we can look at the increasing immunization rate and we can look at the Affordable Care Act. So we know that during that time of ACA, the uninsured rate dropped significantly in Nevada. We made great strides there. So when you have more people accessing Medicaid and private health insurance plans, those plans were required to cover vaccines as an essential health benefit. And so we really saw that increase as well.”

How much of the funding for those free vaccinations is federal?

Nevada participates in the federal Vaccines for Children Program and that is a program that is under the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] and all of the free, no-cost vaccines that come to Nevada through that program are federally funded. Nevada’s a hundred percent federally funded program. We can look at adults. Adults need vaccines too, so it doesn’t just stop with kids. So Nevada also participates in a program that does provide no-cost vaccines to uninsured adults and that is also a hundred percent federally funded program. Now, I will also say, though, we … do fund-raise, and we work with partners like Renown Health and some of our NGOs [non-governmental organizations] like Silver Summit Health Plan, Amerigroup and the Health Plan of Nevada. So they support our community events that we do, especially back to school, and their support actually helps us be able to serve whoever walks in the door.

We’re only eight months into a Republican Congress and presidency. Are you going to be able to sustain the progress you’ve made?

That is something I’ve been working on since January. A couple things are at play right now and in each iteration of health care bills, health care reform, however you want to label it, the Prevention and Public Health Fund has been cut in every one of those bills. The PPHF does support about 12 percent of the CDC’s budget. However, it disproportionately supports immunization, so it actually covers about half of the immunization budget nationally. So that’s a big concern.