The upside of the measles outbreak? The upside of anti-vaxxers?

A fresh take on vax motivation…How Measles and Misguided Moms Are Actually Empowering the Majority to Care Once Again About Diseases Vaccines Destroy

 By Michelle Bonjour, Consumer Engagement Manager, STC


There’s eventually an upside to just about everything and thanks to STC’s Mike Popovich we have one for the measles outbreak and the outcry of the anti-vaxxers: It was Mike who suggested the above title and added, “The measles outbreak is making people care again about diseases that vaccines had eliminated. They were eliminated because moms made sure kids got their shots. People now want to know if they are at risk and that’s why we’re seeing all the new folks signing up for MyIR in Washington.”

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MyIR is short for My Immunization Record and it’s the electronic version of the little booklet where parents used to record their kids’ vaccinations. But it’s better because it’s linked to a state’s immunization registry and thus offers an official record, permitting parents to print out official immunization certificates for school or camp, (saving them a trip to the pediatrician’s office or the pharmacist and saving staff from the time needed to fulfill parent requests), and it enables “push” notifications, such as reminders of needed vaccines.

The usefulness of MyIR caught the attention of Ed Simcox, the Chief Technology Officer of HHS. Here’s the Summary from a HHS press release on that subject: 

“The Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), in partnership with the private sector, supports and promotes MyIR (My Immunization Record) which allows people to instantly access, download, and print their immunization records from home, thereby empowering rapid, informed decision making for families.”

And, talking specifically about the measles outbreak in Washington, the HHS press release added…

In Washington alone, there was a 476% increase in new users accessing their immunization records through MyIR in January 2019, compared to December 2018.  Enabling consumers to securely access their immunization records through MyIR allows citizens to make informed healthcare decisions more rapidly and reduces the burden on State Health Department staff members and physician’s offices responding to records requests, especially during periods of heightened need to check their vaccination status.

MyIR is now available in four states — Washington, Louisiana, Arizona and West Virginia – with a fifth doing onboarding now. However, the greatest usage is in Washington, and that was true even before the measles outbreak. Our colleagues at the Washington State Department of Health have made an effort to enlist more users, as have the pharmacists at Bartell Drugs and Rite Aid chains. Further, a prominent Seattle physician, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, known as “Seattle Mama Doc,” has promoted use of the tool, including having written this:

The digital health world recently took a step in the right direction when it comes to supporting access to your health care information. You can now be in charge of both your own and your family’s immunizations records in several states through a tool and online resource called MyIR  (think “my immunization registry”). You can register yourself and your dependents and access your official, consolidated immunization records on any device, any time. How great is that? No more calling your doctor’s office and asking them to fax your records over. Waiting for snail mail to deliver a copy is a thing of the past. For procrastinators with school paperwork, this is for YOU!

While the benefits to MyIR users are clear, there are equal benefits on the other side of the data transfer: Health providers, especially pediatricians’ offices, are happy to have processing of all those school and camp immunization records put in the hands of the people who’ll use them.  Further, an innovation program by the Louisiana Department of Health is getting school nurses to use and recommend MyIR.

Let’s hope all the efforts to put immunization records into the hands of patients/consumers continue. However, till then, thanks to measles, we have the public’s attention and the opportunity to put that attention to good use.

If you’re in one of the states where MyIR is currently available, you can register (it’s free!) at To explore adding it in your state, you can contact me at:

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Private Schools Everywhere

By Bill Davenhall, Geomedicine Analyst

Quick! How many private schools are there in the United States?

If you said more than 20,000, you would be very close. In fact, in 2016 (the last time the survey was conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics, there were already over 22,000 private schools located in over 67% of all counties (2,113). Fewer than 310 counties, however, accounted for about 80% of all students (about 4 million) and another 555 counties had over 1,000 students in their private schools. Twenty-nine counties in eight states had more than 100 private schools, and seven counties had greater than 200.

 So, what do private schools have to do with immunizations?

Private schools are in every state and are present in more than two-thirds of all counties. They represent a growth segment in the K-12 educational ecosystem and thus represent a significant resource for implementing strategies for strengthening partnerships in the immunized community. 

The map below shows where private schools were located in 2016, and it is likely that there will be more schools to add when the 2018 data is available.  (Note: Due to the density of school locations in most urban areas, you can’t see/count each school location; however if you would like to see a zoomed-in area of your  state or local area where locations are more clearly visible, please send us an email with your requested area. )

Map US County Under 5